May 18, 2006

Doing Mongkok in Boracay

I thought it odd at first to find a Mongkok Dimsum and Noodles all the way in Boracay Island.
I’ve seen it at Power Plant in Rockwell, Makati, with long, long lines of people, waiting to get their tables. I haven’t eaten there myself, always put off by the thought of queuing for a table.
But there I was at D’Mall D’Boracay, hungrier than I’d ever been after a long wait at the Manila airport for our flight out to this beautiful island. I had been looking forward to get a nap first, if the flight had left on time, but no, we had arrived just as the noontime sun decided to shine in its glory. So I was mad as hell as well. Sleepy and hot and hungry. What a perfect combination for lunch.
Thank God, we were expected by the manager Rhoi so it was easy to get a seat. But the lunchtime crowd was fast picking up. Why should I be surprised that this place would be any less popular here than it is in Manila? I was hardly coherent and competent but there I was tossing out the orders off the menu like the rest of the group.
Mongkok thankfully, didn’t disappoint. From the appetizers to the dessert, I was packing it all in. Everything was just frightfully delicious. I was sure to return and have my senses knocked out of me again.
No wonder the lines were long at the Power Plant, I thought. Bite after bite, I half-gloated that at least I didn’t have to burn my ass on a chair just to get a table. Heeheehee (Evil laugh ala Wanda the Witch)
There are 32 choices for Dimsum alone at Mongkok. We ordered the Mongkok Siomai, which was juicy and tender. The Scallop Dumpling just rolled off my tongue with nary a taste of the salty sea. But my favorite was the Salad Shrimp Puff. The shrimp was just tasty and plump inside the crispy crust. Not so thick as most restaurants are wont to coat their shrimps. It was just the right crunch and contrasted perfectly with the softness of the shrimp. Although it was served with mayonnaise as a dip, I opted for sweet chili sauce that gave the dish just the right kick. The rest of the dimsum, of course, was best savored with soy sauce, calamansi and chili oil.
For our main course, we chose among the Chef’s Specials (22 items in all)--the Lemon Chicken, Salt and Pepper Squid, Scallop and Broccoli, and Yang Chow Fried Rice. The Lemon Chicken just had the right tartness but was overall, a sweet dish. The chicken parts were in good-sized pieces, and almost fell off the bone, boosting my overall enjoyment of the dish.
The Salt and Pepper Squid was a smash! I don’t know how Mongkok’s cooks did it but the squid was just soooo tender. No chewing gum, rubbery feel here. I took one bite and the meat separated with ease. This gets high marks from me as a perfect dish. The salt and peppery flavors just played off each other, neither one overpowering the other.
Even the Scallop and Broccoli was quite a treat as the meat was as plentiful as the broccoli tops. Notice how other restaurants just overwhelm this same dish by having too much broccoli that trying to find the scallops would be like digging for Yamashita’s treasure! I just loved the broccoli because it was cooked just right. It was not too well-done to the point of squishy but not too uncooked that it threatens an amoebiasis attack. The tops were just firm but did not clash at all with the softness of the scallops.
I apologize that I can’t say much about the Yang Chow Fried Rice because to me, rice dishes are just accompaniments to the main viands. Despite its chock-full embellishments, the fried rice was not too heavy to confuse the palate that you were eating a main course as well. Although I’m sure some people would just be happy to just order that one dish and have their appetites satisfied. I of course, am more complicated than that.
For dessert I had the Black Gulaman with Lychee. This was the only dish that I had to protest to manager Rhoi. In this dessert, Mongkok puts some almond essence, which unfortunately, is too strong it overpowers the delicate taste of the dessert. With my face contorting into a bleah!, Rhoi asked the waiter to bring me another order without the essence. This time, it was perfect. What a refreshing ending to a delicious, hot and fast meal.
Since it opened last August 8, Mongkok Boracay, a franchise of the popular restaurant in Metro Manila, has obviously been doing brisk business. I was in the area in the afternoon and late evening and there were still a lot of people.
Juan Elizalde, a co-owner of the Mongkok Boracay says he and his partner Paolo Occhionero, wanted a Chinese restaurant at D’Mall primarily because there was none. All the other restaurants in the area where Italian, Japanese, grilled seafoods, lechon manok etc. “We felt that Mongkok would be a good addition to the mall…. We thought Chinese, being one of the more popular cuisines in the world would be the better option to go into.” The Boracay outlet is the first outside Luzon.
Elizalde says Mongkok Boracay has the same menu as its branches in Glorietta and Power Plant. They are not allowed to play around with the dishes or diverge from what is offered in the menu. “We get most of the ingredients from their commissary--except for the meats which we buy locally from the Visayas—and from their partners-suppliers.”
What is noteworthy is that Mongkok’s dishes do not choke under the usual thick MSG-boosted sauces as most Chinese restaurants are wont to do with their food. Everything is simple and straightforward but with a comfort-food appeal. You can eat their dishes anytime of the day, under any situation, alone or in a group, but most especially, when you want more bang for your buck. Looking at the prices, and with my normally ravenous appetite, I think I would be happy with about P400 worth of food. That would include one dimsum (4 pieces), one Chef’s Special, and plain white rice. I would also have some left over to take home for a lazy-to-cook day. Definitely great value for money.

*Mongkok Boracay is located at phase 4 of D’Mall, Boat Station 2. Tel. No. (036) 288-5978. Photo by Jovel Lorenzo
(Originally published in Business Mirror, May 5-6, 2006)

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