The Grid Food Market (Part 1) : Beefier, Babu and Gochu-Gang

I still remember how the food scene was just two years ago. As soon as we landed in Manila, the first thing that I asked my sister-in-law Achi J and my brother-in-law Ahia J was... "so what are the must eats here in Manila?" This was when they told us about the rising trend of food parks -- small, hole in the wall, highly instagrammable food concepts normally found in small neighborhood garage and built using old container shells.

"Interesting", I thought to myself. Achi J told me about several must-try concepts such as one with nachos topped with melted cheese, another with Iced Tea served in fish bowls that's good for 3-4 people to share. Somehow, it reminded me of Timbre+ in Singapore which, I'm happy to report, is still doing so well up until today. I wasted no time and brought my preggy self to try one of those much-talked-about food parks. Let's just say that after one short visit, I came to the conclusion that outdoor, al fresco dining in container shells is just not for me. Perhaps my pregnancy hormones made me more sensitive to heat but I just felt awfully uncomfortable trying to enjoy my plate of nachos and a piece of giant butterfly squid which came with the most awful "java rice inspired" rice known to man while wiping the sweat that was quickly sliding down my face. I also did not enjoy the lingering smell of fried seafood or barbecued meat which stuck to my clothes like glue. Mommy didn't even had to ask me what I had for dinner as she could smell it as I entered the main door.

The concept was cute. It was indeed a novelty but as my foodie friend has boldly predicted, it won't last long. Indeed, not long after, a lot of food parks have bade us goodbye.

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I'd say that when The Grid opened it's doors in the newest wing of Powerplant Mall last year, they have steered the food scene to a more interesting direction. One that tells the public that you can get a variety of top quality food at a reasonable price without breaking a sweat. We have seen this set-up in food courts for decades and what sets The Grid apart is how each stall comes together as one. You enter and find yourself a nice table, a server approaches you and offers you complimentary water and sets your table with real utensils. You take your time to check out each stall and realize that it's like a trip around the world. Craving for Spanish paella? Check! Missing some Lobster Rolls? They got the best in there! Want some Filipino fare? Double check! Got kids in tow? No problemo!

I finally got to try most of the stalls after several visits so I will be sharing my The Grid experience with you in several parts. For my first installment, let us focus on the best comfort food that you can find at The Grid and these can be found at Babu, Beefier and Gochu-Gang.

Let me start with Babu. There's no denying that Singaporean/Malaysian food will always have a special place in my heart. I will forever save space for the best tasting and the juiciest Hainanese Chicken Rice or a bad day can easily be cured with a bowl of creamy, spicy Laksa. There are just days when I want to go carb happy and enjoy a huge plate of Nasi Lemak with Fried Chicken. All these are available at Babu which I found out is the brainchild of my friend and one of my favorite chefs, Chef Him Uy de Baron. I've always loved Chef Him's cooking from Nomama to Cucina Peruvia and even when he does special caterings during my event back in the day. I love how he always put so much attention to details.

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Babu's Chicken Rice (Php. 290), I'd say, is one of the best in town. The chicken remains so juicy but flavorful and the rice, oh boy, well let's just say that I can have the rice all to myself and I'd be a happy camper. He perfectly nailed the 3 condiments that came with the chicken and the way to enjoy this is to have it with all three. Even the spicy red sauce had the right amount of heat too.

As for the Nasi Lemak with Fried Chicken (Php. 350) , I only managed to have a bite of this one as my kids enjoyed it. Well, what's there not to love? The fluffy coconut-infused rice was spot on and served with fried peanuts, egg and anchovies. The only missing is a piece of otak-otak which I hope Chef Him will add someday.

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Lastly, the Premium Laksa (Php. 560) comes with a good selection of seafood -- scallops, mussels, prawns, squid rings and hardboiled egg. Oh boy, this is like the kind of laksa that the royalty would eat. One spoonful and memories of our impromptu laksa dates came rushing in. I love how the flavor is very similar to the ones that we had in Singapore and it even comes with some sambal chili if you want to take the spicy level a notch higher.

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Moving on to Beefier. This was actually the first stall that I visited as I was looking for something that my twins can munch on while we wait for our friends to arrive. I got them a plate of Fries (Php. 100) and boy, it got wiped out in minutes! It was a hit with the twins and it's because the thickness was just right, the length was perfect for their little hands and they must have loved the crunchiness too. I ordered some Garlic Mayo (Php. 10) for us adults to have as dip and it was so good!

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I also recommend the Perfect Caesar Salad (Php. 440) which was a generous portion of fresh romaine lettuce topped with crunchy sourdough croutons, bacon, parmesan cheese and their homemade caesar salad dressing. I love starting my meal with either a bowl of soup or salad and this one, I highly recommend. I also got to try the Arugula Salad (Php. 330) which was also very good. I love the vinaigrette basil dressing coating the fresh arugula that I find to be very refreshing.

Now, a meal at Beefier is not complete without their... BEEF!

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Burger fans should not miss the Cheesier (Php. 290) which is their take on the classic cheeseburger. However, they just have to be a little extra with that super juicy beef patty that's really good. I'm not a big fan of burgers but I do know a good burger when I tastes one and this is definitely it. Juicy and well-seasoned, I love the smokey taste present and the absence of unwanted oil drippings. Have this with more fries and you're ready to declare it a chillax meal.

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If you can't live without rice (yes, as #riceislife), I recommend you try the Gravy Boat Burger Steak (Php. 350) which is their take on the famous Salisbury steak done the Beefier way. They made use of the same mouth-watering beef patty served with rice, corn, veggies and homemade gravy that's super yummy.

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For those who want to focus more on their protein, then go for the Hangar Steak with Fries and Gravy (Php. 680) which is melt-in-your-mouth tender steak and mind you, the serving size is very generous! I love how they have perfectly grilled the beef keeping it crisp and slightly charred on the outside and pinkish inside.

From steaks and beef, let's go to the land of kimchi and bibimbap!

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Annyeonghaseyo! We checked out Chef Patrick's Gochu-Gang which highlights some of his Korean masterpieces. My favorite was his Mushroom Bibimbap which has sadly phased out from his menu *sniffle*.

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Well the Beef Ribeye Bibimbap (Php. 390) is also worth every penny as you get spoonfuls after spoonfuls of the best tasting vegetables, tender beef slices and really fragrant polished rice. Served with a piece of runny egg in the center, this is one thing that you shouldn't miss.

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We also got to try their Beef Japchae Noodles  (Php. 290) which I find to be such a great deal. It's priced below P300 and you get an entire plate of glass porato noodles stir-fried with veggies and beef. It's so yummy! This was actually Rain's special order which she was so sweet to share with her KTG uncles and aunties.

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If you want some heat then don't miss the Fire Noodles (Php. 330). I find the heat to be bearable and the noodle really springy and good. I'm not a fan of instant noodles though so this is probably one that I won't order again the next time.

They also have Grilled Duck Breast, Beef Ribeye Bulgogi, Korean Fried Chicken and more. The menu was so extensive when I went for a visit that I noticed that Chef Patrick has trimmed it down when I went back two weeks ago. If you're like me who loves Korean food but do not want to go all unli k-barbecue all the time, then Gochu-Gang is the place for you.

These are the three stalls that we have visited and tried at The Grid. I still have a lot more stories to share so do watch out for my Part II.

For now, visit The Grid at the Powerplant Mall, R2 Level, Rockwell Center, Makati City. 

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