Sunday, September 23, 2012

Love and service...

"you cannot love what you're not willing to serve.."
-Jesus Christ

love is service - you cannot love what you're not willing to serve.. Jesus said this (or something like this) on the first Maundy Thursday when he washed the feet of his is service... service is love... you cannot love what you're not willing to serve, and you cannot serve what you're not willing to love...

we see people do the same stuff for years - 5, 10, 20, 30 years of their lives w/o really getting much financial rewards... we meet drivers who get us to work, gov't worker who process our papers... teachers, cook, laborers, (BPO processors)... - almost all types of profession would render some form of service on it - and they would do it for the rest of their lives even if the pay is almost just enought to get by on the next one...
sometimes, we wonder why... why not aspire for a better one...
sometimes it seems that the answer is "that's all they can do" or "they're good at it"... but when we try to dig deeper, we can see something more - there's gotta be more than just to get by from payday to payday... there's gotta be more profound reason behind it - something they themselves are sometimes not aware of... and those who have a subconscious idea would simply tell you -
"I love what I do..."
that's probably enough to get us by... it's probably enough even if we're earning just enough...
in the end, if you try to love what you do, that's enough to keep you going - coz once you lose that love, even the simplest task would deem impossible and worthless...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mesa: The common table?

Mesa is not a Tagalog word, it's definitely Spanish. The Tagalog term for "dining table" is "hapag kainan." 

But since, the Filipino Language is made up of many different foreign languages and local dialects (not just Tagalog), it is already inducted to our vocabulary. 

To name a restaurant as "Mesa" is a clever marketing strategy - it's common, short, easy to remember, and provides a very good insight on the products and services it offers.

A quick look at the restaurant's branding. Now let's eat something...

Again, we thank God for another bountiful meal. It's quite difficult to distinguish each dish at this angle, so why don't we just take them one at a time...

First up, some appetizers - a classic one from the sage - Mangga Salad. 

I really don't eat this one so, let me show you my appetizer...

Baked Tahong w/ Cheese! My goodness! This is definitely a history - the day a dozen baked Mussel is served on our table, two of w/c was tried by my partner. Hehe. Yum, yum yum!

But wait - don't judge a food by it's serving plate (in this case, a long narrow white ceramic plate, almost like a custom built one for a dozen tahong). I must say that some of the mussels don't taste as fresh as the others. It's not actually spoiled, but it's "MALANSA" (I cannot translate that word properly.) It's either not cooked properly or it's on its early stages of being spoiled, that's why the slightly foul taste. Well, my stomach's still fine afterwards so I think I was able to tolerate it. Hehe.

My verdict is that I've tasted better Baked Mussels in other places before, and this one does not even come at par w/ what I expected. I said before that you can't go wrong w/ seafoods, but sorry, this baked tahong is a thumbs down here...

Ok, on to the next one. We have more seafoods around (and shredded meat) - fried stuffs this time around. This is the sampler for this resto - A LITTLE BIT OF...  like I said, fried stuffs? From bottom left diagonally up to the upper right, we have some Adobo Flakes, Crispy Tawilis, Calamares, and Crispy Shrimp. Another day in history when this much seafood is on the table. Attack! hehe.

I'm not really a fan of adobo flakes - I haven't really tasted one that would make me wanna try it again - this one included. It's too bland, and tough (when it should be crispy). It's a good thing it's just a sampler.

For the Tawilis, it's quite meaty for its size. Has some crunch on it, but not that much. That yellow strip on top of it is actually ripe mango and gives that sweet taste similar to a sushi. The tail is crispy enough to be eaten too.

I'm not really sure what those rounded fried things too when it got on our table. When I tasted it, I knew, it's calamares. Not really inviting for their looks, and tastes just the standard ones (the one sold on the street tastes better actually.) My first reaction actually after tasting it is "This is better w/ spicy vinegar." True enough, the taste improved once dipped/soaked in some spicy vinegar. That's bad actually because a good food shouldn't rely on confectioners to taste better. Again, this is good, but it's something I can even cook better.

Same goes w/ the crispy shrimp, nothing so special about it. You need the garlic mayo or vinegar to fully enjoy it.

The best thing about this meal is the variety of tastes. Other than that, they're just standard fried seafoods mostly.

On to our main course:

Beef 2 ways. 

Ok, that's quite literal. You've got beef curry on the left and some fried crispy beef on the right. 

The option of mashing down that single Siling Labuyo on the beef curry to make it spicy is left to the customers - I wish it was already inculcated in the cooking process (because we forgot to mash ours.) It lacked that kick of spicy food - our mistake partly.

And that crispy beef seems to be not too crispy at all - it looks like your dry version of adobo. I was hoping it would somehow taste like one, but it's not. It's really just some tenderized chunks of beef which is then fried. Nothing special really.

This combo dish gimmick did not worked well for me. The crispy beef is not crispy and too bland, and the beef curry tastes like your common carinderia curry (w/c is sometimes even better...) I wish I just combined the two on a single serving tay and mashed the Siling labuyo (or just half of it) to improve the taste.


For our drinks, I had Lemonade and iced tea for cy. For a meal that I didn't enjoy much, it's good that we go bottomsless for these.

Some condiments - perfect for the fried foods. The one on the ceramic mini bowl is some siomai sauce (soysauce+chili paste.) And don't be deceived by the vinegars - the one on the left is more spicy than the one on the right. (How come?)

Some unique cutlery here - the handle resembles a bamboo.

My final judgement: give my money back. I did not get what I paid for. It simply lacks that "X-factor".

Perhaps, my stomach was somehow already filled in with something before dining here, or the food was served too late that I've already had a glass of lemonade before eating, or this resto is simply the mediocre type. Maybe they have better food in their menu that we might want to give a chance of, but for me, what I had did not really give a good and lasting impression on me.

Thanks for reading! :)

(...sorry for the negative review)


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Love your work... but don't get married w/ it..

There are different kinds of love...
The love that God has for you is called AGAPE.
The love that you have for your friend is called PLATONIC.
The love that you have for your GF/BF/WIFE/HUSBAND is called EROS.
There are other kinds still, but as far as you can see, these three are all different from one another - God does not love you like you love a friend, or how you love your wife ... and you cannot confuse them w/ one another too...
But one thing is for sure - LOVE SHOULD ONLY BE DEVOTED TO PEOPLE...
The moment you attach love to an inanimate object or something abstract, you should reconsider...
"Loving your work" is almost a statement that is so wrong - you like your work, you don't love it... again, love is only for PEOPLE...
But granting that this statement is tolerable and just something RHETORIC, to exaggerate this some more like "I love my work like I love my GF" or "I'm married with my work" is already something FREAKY... almost GRUESOME...
Imagine loving your work like you love your GF/BF/wife/husband... It's really difficult... There's a BIG DIFFERENCE... Don't tell me that your love for your work is something like EROS?
Don't confuse LOVE w/ your fondness, dedication, passion, commitment, and contentment towards work... They are NEVER synonymous...
Love your work, but not like your GF/BF... and ultimately, GET MARRIED WITH A PERSON instead..

The Art of Saving

We all know how our earnings can sometimes be a bit challenging to stretch, but that shouldn't stop us from setting aside something for the future. It may not be much, but at least, there's something - better than nothing.
Through the years,  I think I've managed to formulate these simple steps on how to have the dicipline of saving. Hopefully, you too can apply them as you handle your finances.
Step  1:  Know how much you really earn
Everything starts with knowledge, and knowing how much you really have will give you a perspective of your financial capacity.  If you have other source of income, the better. Having this knowledge will set your eyes on how much you can really spend and save.
Step 2: Keep things to the basics
After knowing your financial capacity, the first thing to do is to know what your basic expenses are. Ask yourself: What are my day to day basic expenses? We all have different idea of what is "basic" like food, transpo, personal stuffs, monthly share at home, etc. As long as you keep your expenses within these basics, you'll be financially fine.
Step 3: Spend below your means
You know how much you can spend, and you know what are the basic things that you need to spend on. If there are still some left (hopefully), now's the time to spend some for yourself.
This is actually a weird advice - "to spend" when we are talking about saving. But for me, saving is useless if you are miserable. There's nothing wrong to enjoy your hard earned money. And for me, the first step towards finding the value of your money is to actually SPEND IT!
The old advice "spend within your means" is already outdated. You really don't have to exhaust every funds that you have if you can save it. The turning point towards achieving the attitude of saving is to discipline yourself NOT TO SPEND EVERYTHING. It doesn't have to be too much because we're not towards the amount here - we are towards DISCIPLINE.
This is the pivotal step towards achieving the dicipline to save, and I have some tips for this one.
Some people prepare budget on a daily basis, some monthly, or bi-monthly,  but the proper way really is on a weekly basis. You should prepare your budget probably on weekends and try not to exceed on this weekly budget. You should be aware of your payables on the coming week and clear that out as well. Again, dicipline is the key.
You should leave some funds for you 1 - 2 days after the payday. Why? Because the worst time to withdraw on the ATM is during paydays (of course), and I simply hate the long lines and the inconsiderate people around this time (you know, those who take too much time in the ATM knowing that the line is already too long). So, if you're doing Tip # 1 and payday falls on a mid week, then you don't have to waste your time withdrawing cash when your salary comes.  It also adds some bragging rights when you still have some funds left a few days prior to payday when other people are already struggling to survive. hehe
Tip # 3: THE 400/900 RULE
Have you ever found yourself paying for the jeepney fare w/ only a 500 peso bill on your wallet? Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Chances are, you will get scolded by the driver (Or much worse.)
What's the solution?
I call it "The 400/900 Rule"
It simply means that when you withdraw cash from the ATM, these are the only amount that you'll going to use - either 400 or 900, so that you'll have some hundreds w/ you (and not just 500's or 1k's). Having smaller bills to spend is both efficient and at the same time, avoids the hassle (and humiliation) of not having a smaller bills to spend with when needed. It also avoids that unnecessary expenses just to have a smaller bill.
If you will get money to pay for bills, it's still nice if you have these amounts when you withdraw (e.i. 1,400.00 or 2,900.00)
If not properly managed, these two (especially credit cards) will be the start of your downfall, so it's better not to have them. Again, live below your means.
If loans cannot be avoided, you should then go back to step one w/ a reduced financial capacity, and then adjust your perspective as well as your other expenses.
Credit cards will only give you the option (err, the temptation) to spend beyond your capacity. You're blessed if you can control these monsters, but I still suggest to keep your hands away from these. Believe me - you'll be so much better without them.
Unless it is very very (and one more "very") important, BONUSES ARE BETTER LEFT UNUSED. They should form the intergral part of your savings. It presents the best opportunity to save. Why spend a month's salary when you already have the budget for it? Again, discipline.
You should be careful when letting other people borrow money from you. Trust only a few people when giving loans. It's your money afterall, not theirs.
C  H  E  C  K  P  O  I  N  T:
Before you go to the next two steps, it is expected that you have finally achieved the discipline to spend less than what you earn.
Now we have to check your VALUES here.
You have to ask yourselves:  Where am I really happy with - w/ saving or  w/ spending?
Whatever your choices are, you should know that you cannot take both of them - it's either you spend or you save (as if that is not too obvious.) But the thing is, you should be happy with your choice whatever it is. Still, whatever your choice is, you're still saving something (provided you maintain what you learn from Steps 1-3).
Step 4: Compromise and be contented with it
You're living below your means, you're enjoying your money and at the same time, saving something. At this level, in order to increase your savings, you must compromise some of your non basic expenses.
Do you really have to buy new clothes every week? or that famous coffee drink? or that new gadget in town? or that monthly magazine?
The more things you compromise, the more you'll save, but you should always be contented w/ your compromise. That way, you will not feel that you're depriving yourself too much. Again, spend or save, you should be happy w/ the choice you've made.
Step 5: Be happy with your expenses
At this level, you'll finally realize that there are some non basic things that you cannot compromise. This is actually good for your self being, and like level 4, you should be happy with it. You will not have much savings because of them, but at least, you're happy.
Also, in this level, you might want to juggle this w/ Step 4 every now and then to increase savings. Again, like level 4 you should be happy w/ your choices.
Before, my only financial rule is:
"I'll spend carefully in a carefree manner, and whatever's left are my savings."
Very ironic (and very difficult to explain and understand), but in the long run, I think I've managed to make saving an ART on its own through this simple mantra.
Saving is an attitude, a discipline, and an art. It is not intended to make you rich, but it is the starting point towards financial freedom.
But saving is useless if you are miserable. Knowing your money's worth relies on spending it properly. Nonetheless, just keep in mind too that you will never know your money's worth likewise if you're left with nothing to spend with in the first place.
Saving is not really intended to make you rich, but somehow, it is a good starting point.
In the end, money is useful a tool provided you know how to handle it. You should always be the one controlling it, not the other way around, and having the discipline to save is the first step towards it.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Johnandyoko: An Evolution of Japanese Cuisine

Technically speaking, The Sage is not really a food explorer. Our weekend dining options are very limited. 

But for some magical reasons, she did want to try something new this time around, and maybe because this resto is just a few steps away from one of the weekly food destinations that's why we decided to try it out.

Nope, that's not a teapot - that's the soy sauce bottle. My curious nose confirmed it. Hehe. 

On w/ the food!

From the left, that dish is called  Pepper Crusted Chicken with Seaweed Butter. To its right is some Fish and Chips. And the one on the center top is Seafood Yakisoba. (And on the bottom left is my lousy plate, hehe). Each one is good enough for two. 

Now, let's dig in to them one by one.

First up, some appetizers - Fish and Chips. It's actually a huge chunk of deep fried white fish fillet with some french fries, along with some thinly shredded cabbage (I'll pass that as a "coleslaw" though not exactly the way I was accustomed w/). It came w/ a tartar sauce, some salad dressing for the shredded cabbage (that makes it a coleslaw now) and a slice of lemon, everything served on a dripping tray from frying (still w/ a plate underneath, of course.)    

The perfect fried fish fillet should be crispy on the outside but flaky on the inside - exactly what this is. The crispy crust, when sliced, reveals a very soft white fish fillet on the inside that literally crumbles on its own. If you find that fish too soft to eat, then let it cool down some more so that it hardens a little bit, though the crust might lose some of its crisp. I think it's trying to achieve a tempura style fish fillet although slightly on the more well done side and a different ingredient altogether compared to the authentic white tempura batter. Enjoyed best with tartar sauce of course, almost a standard one I guess.

They did not get too fancy w/ the french fries and the coleslaw anymore (other than the coleslaw served separately from the dressing) so on to the next dish...

I don't go out from any Japanese restaurant w/o trying out their Yakisoba, but this dish on the menu says "Seafood Yakisoba or Yakiudon"... hhmm... I'm not sure w/c is the thicker noodle between the two (and I'm too proud to inquire and I love surprises and I went with my instinct) so I chose Yakisoba, hoping this is similar to Tokyo Tokyo's. Then in was served...

Almost a "BOOO"! This is not what I expect! The noodles are just instant noodle thin - even the instant yakisoba is thicker! BOOO! I want my money back! hehe. Kidding aside, let's try not to judge the noodle by its size and just try it out.

Personally, I want to rename this meal as "Seafood overload Yakisoba". It is not clear from this angle, but it is topped w/ a lot of different kinds of seafoods. It has some baby octopus (or was it just squid), shrimp, squid rings and some sliced squid balls (I think) along with some vegetables, sprinkled w/ some seaweed flakes on top. 

A good soba should be good enough on its own - just stir fry it w/ some veggies and it should absorb those flavors and blend in its own. Now add in this variety of seafoods and you've got... well, let me tease you a bit and let's say just try it out, it's really good.You really can't go wrong w/ seafoods and Yakisoba anyway, I guess... hehe

Let's get moving w/ the main course...

First, we had something American, then something Japanese - now let's go Italian w/ Pepper Crusted Chicken with Seaweed Butter. Does not really sound Italian, but as you can see, it is served on a bed of Fettuccine (or was that Linguine, the less thicker than the two) and some cooked asparagus. I'm not sure how the asparagus was cooked, but it's neither blanched nor steamed, I think, because it does not taste bland. Probably cooked in butter, I guess, hehe.

Cy inquired on what is the sauce of the pasta, and we were told that it's just pasta in oil... hhmm (again)... I love pasta but not the oil based ones... but let's see..

Upon tasting the pasta, I immediately know what oil was used - it was the same oil used to pan fry the Crusted Chicken.

Now that's clever.

Imagine the slightly burned flavor from a pan fried and deboned chicken thigh... all the flavors rendered while cooking the meat... almost like the perfect pan bar-b-qued chicken... and all these flavors was absorbed by the pasta... to me, this really is something new.

As for the chicken itself, I think, I've already described it well enough - almost like the perfect pan bar-b-qued chicken... It is either pan fried or pan grilled, and chicken thigh simply is the best part of a chicken... perfectly tender, and being deboned is also an advantage to The Sage. hehe

We forgot to photograph our drinks. We  just had red and blue iced tea actually. They come in other colors too... but the blue iced tea looks green actually (or teal, or it's just my color blindedness attacking again, hehe)


A restaurant owner once said:

"The people that come here are here to eat a good food - and that's what we serve. They're not here to see great interior designs, or nice tables, or nice paintings. If that's what they're looking for, the local museum is just around the corner."

I share the same vision, but to those who are interested, here are some of the view from the inside and out.

As if this is not obvious enough, the restaurant's name was derived from the couple John Lennon and Yoko Ono... British and Japanese... West and east... the best way to describe what a "Cosmopolitan Japanese food" tastes like.

They also serve traditional ones like Sushi, Sashimi, and Maki, but we're good (very good actually) with what we had. They also have some innovative dishes like "Japaella" (as if what we had is already not innovative enough. Hehe.)

Overall, the food is reasonably priced. Might be on the slightly high end side, but like I said, the price is just right for a food this good. For that, The Sage and I are now finally letting go of an old corny joke (whenever we walk pass this resto) w/c says:

"john and yoko? yoko john e.hehe"

...coz really, they have an amazing variety of neo-japanese food waiting for your discovery.

Thanks for reading! :)