Time is a resource, greatly taken for granted. The young and the fortunate have it, the old and (I’m sure many would agree) the labouring wish they had more of it. How many of us have devoted much of our time to something that a break from it seems like such an occasion? A cause of utter internal celebration. A prize that many feel so entitled to but so few ever truly attain. If you’re like me, then a momentary pause and shake up from my usual routine of work, sleep, repeat is quite the feat.
Well, For one, this post is a few of “it’s been a while’s”.
It’s been a while since you last went out for a drink, Nico.
It’s been a while since you last saw your friends, Nico.
It’s been a while since you put anything up on the blog, Nico.
So let’s fix that. All in one go.
Context: A few friends and I were supposed to meet a few Sundays back for a breakfast catchup, probably somewhere in Makati as they all lived in that city, really near each other if you look at it from my point of view. God bless them. I uncharacteristically failed to rise before the Sun decided she wanted to take a crack at the new day and apologized. Quickly they routed another plan in the way and we were all relatively free.
The following days went by with a few minor hitches but generally left me unscathed. Still, after a week’s fill of work, I could’ve really used a night out. And so we went. My suggestion was somewhere in Poblacion so we could eat a bit, drink a bit and all that shit.
Because we are of sound and frugal mind, heart, body and soul… I decided to park at the Metroclub and walk it to Poblacion. I have full confidence that nothing will happen to my car there. But more importantly, no. Most importantly. it’s free for me to park there.
I took my friends to check out Gaja Korean Kitchen for dinner as one of them came back from a day hike and was looking for comfort food, which she then proceeded to tell me was hearty Asian food. Hell, I was in the mood too. So off we headed down Kalayaan Avenue. This place was on the second floor of a building that had a Chinabank. Apparently there was parking.
What really coursed through my head upon first stepping into the vicinity was just how… clean it was. Very simple decor. You could smack your surroundings in a 5-slot color palette. I loved it. You take that in with the intriguing overhead lighting fixtures, the small textures of the seats and walls and you have the warm, exuberant yet unassuming vibe that made my first 15 seconds really a visual experience to take note of.
Ambiance was amazing as well. They were playing Korean R&B. Really smooth, solid stuff. I literally was frantic with the playlist. It was frustrating because I enjoyed listening to the music around so much but was obviously unable to search and take note of the songs… because they were in Korean. Save for one. I knew this song instantly. Ladies and gentlemen, check out “Love” by DEAN. Dope shit.
Full disclosure, there initially were no plans to make an entry for this night because I really wanted to just spend some good quality time with some of my friends… but here we are. I am literally the worst blogger ever. (cue in the idiotic, self-deprecating laughter.) So for the dinner portion of the night, the only bit of proof that it ever really went down was this photo taken by my friend using his iPhone X. Do it for the lols.
Failing to feature dinner, here’s a rundown of what we had:
Three of us had KFR or Korean Fried Rice. They do it just like how I want it. Lots of rice. Lots of spice. You can have it mild, spicy or extreme. You can have beef, pork, chicken (mmm…) or seafood as your protein. You can go cheesy or without it. I thoroughly enjoyed eating this. The serving may be a tad too big for those who don’t do big a lot but my big fellow eaters I feel will be convincingly satisfied with how much they plate down. I highly recommend.
My buddy had the Honey Butter Chicken. I guess it was okay. He didn’t seem to hate it. HAHA.
After our dinner, we proceeded to The ODD Seoul. Ask your waiter about where it is. I’ll leave it at that.
If Gaja was warm, simple and bright, The ODD Seoul was cool, dark and looked fun as hell.
My recent on-going work with a soju brand drew me to focus on their signature soju cocktails.
맛있어. Say it with me. Pronounce it like “mah-shee-soh.” It very crudely translates to “hell yeah it’s goddamn tasty AF bro.”
My friend Yanna here got a grown up version of banana milk. They call it K-Milk. It was more than just K if you know what I mean.
I’m not sure who was named after who because Tara got an order of My Sassy Girl. An obvious ode and in someways a striking parallel to the Korean rom-com from the start of the Naughts, the drink’s sweet but it’s got a bite. It’ll take a while but you’ll know this one’s not some run of the mill sipper. By the way, Tara just came from a hike a few hours prior to this photograph. Could you tell? Neither could we.
Rajie took the ODD because he heard it was in test tubes. This man will always stay true to his branding, I love the guy for that. The ODD is an assortment of soju, tequila, lychee, aloe and pomegranate. I’m guessing the red one houses the pom and the blue one has lychee. That white' one’s probably just soju and tequila. Leave it to Raj to do things his way. The menu recommended to start off easy with the white and end it with the blue. But he went the other way. Ended this drink a little more spiky than he expected.
Soju. Tequila. Aloe. Sour Apple.
As for me, I went with what I saw was the most straightfoward take into two of my preferred inebriations. Soju and Tequila. If they threw in some vodka, that would have been pretty much all my dead nights from college. The Gaja Bomb was good.
I ended my stop here with a quick ruse with the Yogurt Lady. Again, two of my preferred spirits are present. Soju shares a glass with vodka this time and a Melona. I would have preferred the Strawberry flavoured popsicle but hell, good is good. Mix in all that is good in Yakult and how could I say no? It’s good for my digestion, I told myself. What a laugh.
Drinks and the continuation of our catchup over dinner concluded and we wanted to move to somewhere else. We tried heading a few places. Nokal was packed; Ruins didn’t let me in cause of my backpack. So I took them to a personal favorite. To Felipe St. we went for Tambai. Well… sort of. I’ve had my fill of Tambai a bunch before for work and for the random nights but I haven’t been back in so long. That place has developed quite a bit since I went last.
Enter Ebi 10. We’ve been all over Korea over the course of the night. Let’s hit up a bit of Japan to close us off.
Rajie ended his night with an order of Bird’s Nest tempura. This was such a fun thing to see. I’m sure it was good too.
Why I have been putting up with tempuras around the metro not from Ebi 10 will now forever escape me. But I have tasted this and cannot go back. My favorite tempura in Manila movin forward. It’s light. It’s crispy. The taste is a captivating umami. So good that I ordered two more pieces. I will have dreams of this tempura until I pass away and move on to whatever afterlife comes after this. And hopefully they have this tempura at the ready when I get there.
Another thing that will constantly tease and haunt the back of my mind until the next time I go is the Bacon Yakisoba. We were the last customers for the night for Ebi 10 so I got comfy. Real comfy. I couldn’t help but just lean on the wall, bowl in one hand, chopsticks on the other. This bowl felt so… comfortable. I was so very comforted. All the loops and hoops that we have to jump through in our everyday work life felt so validated by the firm noodles and the distinct bacon tone of it all. It’s like when you watch Cooking Master Boy and Mao gives whoever a dish. And they freak out. There. That’s the way I’d describe scarfing this down.
We all need to set aside some time to get back what we’ve put into our careers and other endeavours. Our friends will need to do the same. We decided to get together in Poblacion. And it was good.
Gaja Korean Kitchen and The ODD Seoul can be found at 8445 Kalayaan Ave, Makati, Metro Manila. Gaja is open on Mondays to Sundays from 11:00AM to 12:00AM. The ODD Seoul is open on Mondays to Thursdays from 4:00PM to 2:00AM, Fridays - Saturdays from 4:00PM to 3:00AM and Sundays from 4:00PM to 11:45PM.
You can reach them at (0906) 493 0799 and check out their Facebook page here and here.
Ebi 10 can be found at 5779 Felipe St. Poblacion, Makati, Metro Manila. They are open on Mondays to Saturdays from 6:00PM to 1:00AM
You can reach them at (02) 956 7816 and check out their Facebook page here.
*This dinner experience was not sponsored by the establishment and all insights above are based only from my own experience.*