Friday, August 30, 2019

Hong Kong's Honolulu Cafe at SM Aura in Taguig

I'm back! It's been a really busy month and yet every time I remind myself about our upcoming trip to the Lion City, I get this sudden surge of adrenaline rush and excitement.

Finally, after two long years, Paul and I went back to our second home and what made this trip extra special was having our twins with us too. I knew that we will be back (for a visit at least) and I was really determined to take my twins with me in order for them to meet their aunties, uncles and playmates who were like family to us when we were still based there. No yayas with us so it was just me, Paul and our twins. I knew also that it will be extra tiring and physically draining but I was up for that challenge. This is probably one of the rare times in their young lives that J & L got our undivided attention for one full week. In fact, a week is indeed to short to meet up with everyone and to go to all the places on my list. Also, I realized that it's the first time that I'm visiting Singapore as a Mom and I now have a different perspective on what places are considered family-friendly, what restaurants are safe for kids and most of all, I do realized that Singapore has a lot of awesome diaper changing rooms which I am truly thankful for. Manila is slowly picking up pace and I got faith that someday we can turn our little metro into a family-friendly place too.

Now that we're back from our trip and our luggages have finally been unpacked, cleaned and kept again in our storage room, somehow I can't stop thinking about all the fun that the 4 of us had last week and little by little, I feel like my wanderlust spirit is coming out of its shell again. I thought that when I become a mom, I no longer can travel the world but that's not true. At such a young age, no matter how tiring it can be, I believe that Paul and I made the right decision to take our twins with us as we're building memories as a family and we somehow got to know L and J even better during this trip. So, here I am, dreaming of when we will go on a family trip again.

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Perhaps, Hong Kong might be a good next destination. After all, it's one of our favorite places too. They'll be much bigger by then and we can probably visit more places, eat at those tiny restaurants without having to ask for baby chairs and give in to our shopaholic tendencies (guess who among us has this haha). While I continue to day dream, let me tell you about the time that Paul and I took our twins to try Honolulu Cafe at SM Aura. Yaya was on holiday then so it was once again just the four of us. L doesn't like eating rice so we have to look for a place where there's bread. That's when I spotted those buttery golden Bolo Buns with a thick slice of butter sitting in one of Honolulu Cafe's bakery shelves.

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I've heard about Honolulu Cafe from the time it opened in Singapore. I've been wanting to give it a try but knowing that the queue can take forever, I've been putting this visit off until I ended up flying back home to Manila for good. Guess, fate has its way of getting those much talked about egg tarts and Bolo Buns to me as Honolulu Cafe opened in Manila early this year. I'm a fan of the traditional Bo Lo Buns (Php. 50 / 60). I love the crusty top encasing a pillowy soft bread inside. Bo Lo stands for pineapple and I guess the cracks on the crust replicates that of a pineapple shell. You can have it with or without butter but if you ask me, I love it with some butter which melts especially when the bread is freshly baked.

Another must try is the Bo Lo BBQ Pork Bun  (Php. 60) which is my dad's personal favorite. It's like asado siopao only you swap out the white buns with the same bread used for the Bo Lo Bun. The bread has a nice sweetness to it which goes well with the savory taste of the BBQ pork filling. My little L enjoyed this so much that she managed to finish one entire bread all by herself. Say hello to my little bread lover.



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Since we were in the mood to have some local Hong Kong snacks and dishes, we couldn't resist ordering the Curry Fish Ball (Php. 198 / 10 pcs) which has that nice bouncy bite to it and that curry was really good! Suddenly, memories of walking down Nathan Road with a cup of piping hot curry fish ball on one hand came rushing in.

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We moved on to the main dishes starting with the Deep-Fried Prawn with Thousand Island Sauce (Php. 488). Let's admit it. When it comes to mayonnaise, you just in either of two camps -- it's either you love it or you hate it! There's really no grey area when it comes to this sweet and creamy sauce that's made of oil and eggs. I'm a big mayonnaise fan while my former-work-seatmate-turned-kumare D avoids it like a plague. Still, our friendship remains rock solid so I'm cool with that. :) I'd gladly take all her packets of mayonnaise with open arms. So, when it comes to this dish, it's probably one of my favorite at Honolulu Cafe. Paul thought it was just a-okay but for me, I will definitely go back for more! I love the crisp fried prawns and how it's perfectly coated with the thousand island dressing. It's not overly rich nor too cloying and it just goes well with a bowl of steamed rice. If you need to go for an extra bowl, go ahead, I promise we won't judge. ;)

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Next up was the Deep-Fried Honey Garlic Spareribs (Php. 288). For the price, I feel this is quite a steal! Normally, restaurants would charge a little extra for spareribs so I was surprised to see that this is priced below P300. The serving portion is good for 2 to share and I love the sweet-garlicky flavor notes of this tender pork spareribs. I initially ordered this for my twins to try but well, they were happy with the Bo Lo Buns as well as the other dishes on the table so this one was meant for me and Paul to enjoy. The pork was tender, the meat falling off the bone. No struggle required in here and I enjoyed scooping some of the garlic bits onto my rice. Yum!

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No visit to any Hong Kong restaurant will ever be complete without trying their casserole dishes. From the fragrant rice to the meats, we gave in to temptation and tried the Beef Brisket (Php. 328). Papa loved this and I can totally see why. Tender, melt-in-your-mouth beef cooked in a thick and creamy curry sauce together with large cuts of potatoes. It's truly comforting and definitely one that you all have to try.

When it comes to rice, you will definitely face some challenge in choosing which one to get. Trust me, I had to take some time here and I ended up ordering two in hopes that my twins will like either one of these.

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The first one was the classic Steamed Rice with Chinese Sausage and Wind-Dried Meat in Casserole (Php. 198). This one reminds me of the time that Paul and I would queue up in this small eatery by the road, the store front had barely any signage and if you ask me now, I won't be able to give you much directions but the only thing I remembered was that the restaurant owner was busy cooking pots after pots of claypot rice in front of his restaurant and we have to patiently wait for our order to be ready as he prepares this upon getting your order. Indeed, just like that claypot rice that we had in Hong Kong, this one was worth the wait too. I love the smokey flavor that you get from the rice and anything with Chinese Sausage is truly yummy. I like adding a bit of oil and soy sauce before mixing the rice in order to bring out more flavor from the meat.

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Our second rice dish was the Deep Fried Pork Chop Curry Rice (Php. 288). Another great deal, if you ask me. This ceramic baking pan is packed with so much flavored rice with a huge piece of fried pork chop on top. Covered and baked with cheese, this is definitely one umami-licious dish that every curry/cheese/rice lover should try.

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As for my kids, they love their spaghetti so much so we got the Baked Spaghetti with Minced Beef Bolognese (Php. 298) for them to enjoy.

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If Hong Kong-style noodle is your thing, try the Stir-Fried Flat Rice Noodles with Beef  (Php. 268) which reminds me of my local Singaporean favorite, the Char Kway Teow or the Beef Hor Fun. It's good, a bit on the oily side but I love how generous they were with the amount of beef.

We ended up ordering a feast and I'm glad that my twins enjoyed their first visit to Honolulu Cafe as much as Paul and I did. Of course, we're not ending our meal just like that. We gotta have their specialty and this is the Homemade Egg Tart (Php. 50). Note that all bakery products are only available till 6pm daily. I'm not really sure why but perhaps this is also to preserve the best quality of the bread and pastries.

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Unlike the usual egg tarts that we've had locally, this one has a really really flaky crust. So flaky that I made a huge mess on my plate as I took the first bite. It's good but I am not a fan of really flaky and oily crust. Sorry, just too OC to get my hands all messy. Taste-wise though, it's good so definitely worth a try.

How I wish that Honolulu Cafe will open more branches in the Metro. They have two for now -- SM Aura and another one at Robinsons Place Ermita both catering to the south crowd. Can't wait for it to open a branch somewhere in the central area for u to be able to enjoy these Hong Kong treats more often from now on.

Till then, catch Honolulu Cafe at the Lower Ground Floor, SM Aura Premier, C5 road corner 26th street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.  Follow them on Facebook for more details
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