Saturday, April 13, 2013

RK Garden Chinese Seafood Restaurant Opens in Bel-Air

I was surprised that a new restaurant recently opened at Jupiter street - the place is packed with every kind of restaurant imaginable, I think. Ranging from popular fast food chains, hole-in-the-walls, as well as authentic Indian, Korean and Japanese joints. What I found it lacked was authentic Chinese restaurant, as most of them seemed to have congregated at the Pasay road strip.

I was delighted to find out that a new Chinese (yey!) restaurant had opened in Bel-Air, the RK Garden Chinese Seafood Restaurant, and brought trusty ol' Jericho to check it out with me. And wow, were we in for a gastronomic treat!

Unlike the other restaurants the line the streets of Jupiter, it's nice to know that RK Garden has ample parking for their guests. I also like how the façade reminds me of Emerald Garden, who are known for serving delicious food and is one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in Manila (their jumbo siopao is ridonkulous). The red and green sign with the image of a dragon in the middle and the red Chinese lanterns may be a tad cliché, but it's also the sign that you know you're in for a lot of good eats.

I got to meet two of the owners of the restaurant, Joseph - a Singaporean that moved to Tagum, Davao who established the original RK Garden - and Christopher - the dude that pleaded with Joseph to take the restaurant to Manila until he had no choice but give in. Good job, Christopher! Joseph's Singaporean roots are prevalent in some of the dishes, which makes the restaurant stand out from your usual Chinese food fanfare.

We started our Chinese food fiesta with a plate of Century Egg with Seaweed (P180). The seaweed, in actuality, is really jellyfish. I don't understand why restaurants keep naming it seaweed - or even worse, blubber (I'm looking at you, Peking Garden!).

The jellyfish was a bit  spicy from the sauce it was in, and I loved the chewy bite it had. The century egg had a very, very mild earthy taste, which is good if you're trying to ease your way into trying something weird new. Mostly, it tasted of regular egg that's been kept in the fridge for a while, so don't be afraid to give it a taste the next time you see a plate of century eggs, m'kay?

I ordered a Mango Shake (P150) and it came in this huge glass! Yey for the generous serving of drinks! The mango shake was quite thick, and very creamy. This is definitely a drink you want with you to cleanse your palate if you plan on gorging on plates after plates of food. Like us.

Jericho got the RK Special Iced Tea and it also came in what I can only describe as a vase. You can imagine how happy he was that he wouldn't have to order another glass. It kind of tasted like iced tea, but not really, and we discovered, much to out delight, that it was made out of talbos ng kamote. So not only is it refreshing, it's good for you, too!

We started with a bowl of RK Green Seafood Soup (Small- P298, Large- P596). The serving actually comes in a much bigger bowl than what's in the picture - the small serving is good for at least 6 people in my estimate. The green color is from spinach and the soup tasted amazing after a few drops of dark vinegar. The RK Green Seafood Soup was thick quite thick with bits of egg, diced mushrooms and strands of glass noodles.

The Chinese restaurant also serves Kilawin na Malasubi (Blue Marlin). Keeping up with the tradition of the original Davao branch that serves kilawin, Joseph and Christopher thought it would be a good idea to bring it to Manila. And boy, was he right! See how they aren't stingy with the chili? We probably have Joseph and his Singaporean roots to thank for that. Thank you, Joseph!

A rather unusual dish that RK Garden serves is the Kilawin na Suahe. Suahe is a kind of shrimp that is a lot more paler and creamier in color, and rarely would you see it used for kilawin. This was a first for me! Each morsel was a delight to eat, with bits of onion and chili offsetting the sourness of the vinegar it was marinated in.

The Lapu-Lapu Steamed with Soy Sauce was soft and fell off with a touch of the fork. The soy sauce gave the fish its flavor and it was just delicate and divine. I especially loved how the waiter served it like how the footmen at Downtown Abbey would serve at the dining table - holding the plate up while I helped myself to the fish. I felt really special!

A few minutes later, I was scratching my head wondering what the huge platter was that the waiter was bringing our way. It turned out to be Patatim (P598). Just look at that dish in all its glory - it may just give me a heart attack if I stare at it for too long. The tender meat just fell off the bone and into the sticky sweet sauce with the pechay, baby bamboo shoots and carrots swimming about and soaking in all the flavor. This plate could probably feed six to eight people easy. 

We tried to tell ourselves that we'd offset the fatty Patatim with the RK Special Chopsuey (P278). It was a little more than just vegetables tossed together in a bowl, the serving dish was overflowing with pechay, shrimps, carrots, baby corn, quail eggs, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli and sugar snap peas. I would probably polish this off on my own if I was left to my own devices, I just love my vegetables!

Jericho was quite taken with the Fried Spareribs with Salt & Pepper (P298). It was fried a golden brown and was very crunchy, with the sprinkling of chili and onions giving it so much more zing. I felt like I was eating out of a hawker stand in Singapore.

Speaking of feeling like we were back in Singapore, I loved the Baked Crab with Ginger and Onion! If I wasn't in a restaurant full of people, I would've put down the cutlery and dug in with my hands - the sauce is finger licking good and that crab was asking for it!

Another crab dish we tried was the Steamed Crab with Garlic. They really don't joke around with their crab dishes, this was very meaty and I kept on dipping the crab meat into the garlicky sauce. I just wish they had claw crackers and crab forks to get at all that meat. It seems a waste to just leave bits there just because your big clumsy dinner fork can't get at them.

Would I come back here again? In a heartbeat! If you ever find yourself mucking around Makati and looking for an affordable Chinese restaurant with some awesome Chinese-Singaporean dishes, then RK Garden Chinese Seafood Restaurant is your best bet. I have my eye on the RK Hot Chicken Salad, Oyster Cake and Fried Eel with Salt & Pepper!

Just mucking around Manila,
Follow @_iamkathi on Twitter and Instagram.
Like the Mucking Around Manila fan page.

Photos courtesy of Jericho San Miguel

RK Garden Chinese Seafood Restaurant
+63 2 519-9434
16 Jupiter St. cor. Antares St.
Bel-Air, Makati
Open Daily: 10am - 10pm