Saturday, May 24, 2014

FOOD + TRAVEL: A fusion of affordable Filipino and Asian dishes at St. Nicholas, Mandaluyong

It's rare for me to write about restaurants here in the Metro, as I often blog about the ones that I dine at when I'm traveling out of the city. But when I was invited and introduced to this restaurant in Mandaluyong, something in me had to say, "YES! GO RSVP!" And so I did, and I sincerely loved the experience thereafter.



For a Budget Biyahera like me, it pays to know where money is going, especially if I'm saving up for a trip. So affordable yet quality-made meals in the city will definitely help me with not spending too much. And let me just say that St. Nicholas was certainly a great find!

My friend and I arrived an hour early, since our cab driver drove really fast (and recklessly too)! But regardless of us being early birds, we were openly welcomed by the owner himself --- Nick Pelaez. Mr. Pelaez is the General Manager and Executive Chef of St. Nicholas Catering (Nicholas was named after the owner's late father). 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS DO LAST!

I'm a sucker for places that display wooden fixtures, hanging fabric curtains and eclectic asian pieces (look for the sitting Buddha statue!). But what I loved the most about the fancy eatery was the garden and Al fresco setup. The interior decoration of a usual catering business truly exuded in the restaurant's open-air arrangement. It felt like I was about to dine in a place where great memories will transpire. And true enough, that's what happened during our intimate dinner. The restaurant simply exuded a happy vibe, despite the humidity that surrounded us.



HOW IT ALL BEGAN

I was amazed that Mr. Pelaez took on a catering business for 10 years now, working only as a Sole Proprietor. Usually, it would take a group of people to have a go at such a big undertaking. So for me, running St. Nicholas for a decade, and gaining more loyal following through time is an inspiration on its own. Meeting Nick was actually a sign for me, as I've been contemplating on doing my future venture as a Sole Proprietor as well. I felt like I wouldn't be able to juggle everything on my own, given the many tasks at hand. But Nick's flourishing business is a real testament to the saying that "anything's achievable if you just put your mind to it."



Mr. Pelaez was able to share to us how his business began. He had a niece who was about to celebrate her debut. So instead of hiring somebody else to do the catering, he presented himself to be at their service. He made it happen at 28 years old. And the rest was history! 

We were actually surprised that he was a Med Tech graduate. But that didn't stop him from pursuing culinary classes to further up his skills, and to improve the flavors of his dishes. He's been to several places in the Philippines, and have already sampled many Filipino cuisines, which he's been able to tweak and serve to his customers. 

St. Nicholas Catering Services has also been awarded the Most Outstanding Catering Service in the 15th Annual Asia-Pacific Excellence Award and the Global Excellence Awards. They also received the prestigious Dangal ng Pinoy Award given by Buhay Pinoy.



FOOD TASTING 

Chef Nick and his hard-working staff that Sunday were very accommodating (they're closed every Sunday by the way). We were first served with shakes (mine was the Choco Banana Shake), and were soon presented with several aromatic plated meals. Most of the Filipino dishes that were given to us were all reasonably priced. And not only were the viands very tasty, each one's presentation were also very commendable! I just couldn't resist not taking a bite from each of the plates on our table. 


RICE MEALS ON A BUDGET (KANIN SA MANGKOK)

That night, we were served with the following cuisines (those marked with an asterisk are my personal favorites). Each of these orders already came with a generous serving of plain rice and fried egg. These rice meals would usually range from P65 to P110. You can just add an extra P10 for an additional sunny side up egg. Affordable right?

The *Bicol Express Rice meal (P65) was a personal favorite. The spiciness from the food created a certain kick in my mouth. But the heat from the green chillis were bearable to the palate. My plate was definitely wiped clean, as it was that delicious!

There were also plenty of rice dishes that were served to us like the Regular Adobo (P65), Chicken Curry (P65), Liempo Binagoongan with Talong (P79), Lechon Kawali with Chopsuey (P99), Chicken Teriyaki (P79), Sweet and Sour Pork, and Sweet and Sour Fish Fillet (P79). 


Photos courtesy of Jherson Jaya of the Lonelytravelogue.com

I was able to taste every dish. But I somehow found each one a bit bland to my liking. Then again, I fancy salty food more. So, it's probably just my palate that needed adjusting. But if there's a consistent factor in all of the meals presented to us, that would have to be the soft texture from each one. You wouldn't have a hard time eating or chewing the meat from these cuisines, as they've been really cooked well.

OH MY GULAY!

We were also served with vegetable sides such as the famous Ilokano food called "Poqui-Poqui", which is made out of eggplant, mixed with vinegar, chopped onions, garlic and tomatoes. This was my first time to taste this delicious Filipino viand despite having visited Ilocos 2 years ago. Anyway, the Poqui-Poqui also became a favorite dish of mine, as I loved it's tangy yet spicy taste. But other than that, Chef Nick also served us with some Ensaladang Mangga, which was topped with their homemade Bagoong (P85). I actually loved the sweet taste of the salted-fish, as well as its sticky texture. 

Photos courtesy of Jherson Jaya of the Lonelytravelogue.com

CUISINES WITH BIG SERVINGS

Chef Nick also had several viands cooked for us that night, and these were a bowl of Sinigang na Baboy (P199), *Calderetang Baka (P250), Adobong Baboy sa Dilaw (P199), Adobong Crocodile Meat (P300), and fried Tilapia with sweet tamarind sauce (P199). I loved the sweetness of the Calderetas sauce and the soft texture of the beef when chewed. So this meal definitely ranked well with my list of favorites. But apart from that, I also enjoyed eating the Adobong Crocodile Meat (Buwaya). The very exotic food had a similar consistency and texture with that of beef. It was cooked perfectly, as it didn't taste weird or "malansa". It tasted really savory too, which totally surprised me. 


Photos courtesy of Jherson Jaya of the Lonelytravelogue.com

DESSERTS GALORE 

The St. Nicholas owner also taught us a few deep Tagalog words, like MININDAL for example (which means snack or "merienda"). Our snack, or dessert rather, after dinner were a few slices of *Yema Cake (P85), Puto Leche Flan (P60/serving), and Turon de Tsokolate (P75). These sweet treats were also perfectly matched with a hot cup of Civet Coffee (P135).


Photos courtesy of Jherson Jaya of the Lonelytravelogue.com

INTERIOR DECORATION

Other than the food, I also loved the venue, which can actually accommodate 100 pax. But apart from that, I also appreciated a few other things from the 1-month old restaurant (yes, they opened just a month ago). There were plenty of plants around, and there was also a big yet open bird cage with a newly hatched dove inside it. St. Nicholas also had a Patron Saint that was displayed outside, several antique items (given to Chef Nick by family and friends), and a stage with a colorful backdrop. They would also play Kundiman songs (old classical, Filipino love songs) in the background, which helped set a lovely tone in the restaurant. The whole setting is just perfect for a nice, romantic dinner.



LOCATION

If you're coming from the Mandaluyong City Hall, make a right turn past Pan De Manila (before the Bantayog ng Kabataan monument). After this, turn left to the second street, which is San Rafael. Ply that road until you reach the first corner to your left. This is Fatima st., and St. Nicholas is just one of the houses located on the left side. [FOLLOW the blue dots on the map].


Thank you again Chef Nick for welcoming us to St. Nicholas, and for filling our tummies with great Filipino cuisines. Until our next food trip in Mandaluyong! :)


[L-R: Chef/Owner Nick Pelaez, Ramil, Edgar, Me, Jherson, Karl, Jaycelle & Brian]

Explore & Be Free!
Mai, Budget Biyahera

***You can check out St. Nicholas via their Facebook Page and Website.
Address: #1 Fatima st., corner San Rafael St., Plainview Subd., Mandaluyong City. 
Phone: (02) 5357637, 7886426, 3848453, 3843483
Opening Hours: 10am-10pm, Monday to Saturday

6 comments:

  1. Fave ko yung croc dish nila. the civet coffee was interesting. been avoiding tasting one for a long time until i had to one evening there. nice shots. dining made dreamy.

    ReplyDelete
  2. WOW, Karl! Dining made dreamy talaga ah.. kakaiba yun! :P Ako naman, Bicol Express, Poqui-Poqui at Caldereta talaga ultimate favorites ko. =)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow nice find ah! Pwede ng dating plate mura pa.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, Stacy! It's an ideal place for a lot of celebrations. Do dine there sometime. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. The food looks delicious! Will try this out. :)

    www.intransitph.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Please do! Their food is delish and affordable. :)

    ReplyDelete

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