Saturday, June 6, 2015

Balay Dako in Tagaytay City by Antonio's Group of Restaurants

It was Christmas season when I drove up to chilly Tagaytay and first spotted a sign by the roadside, announcing the opening of Balay Dako by Antonio's in May 2015. Perhaps this summer's most anticipated restaurant launch this side of town, the opening of Balay Dako finally happened today (June 6) and, lucky me, I was around...hungry and lunch-starved at 3:30pm.

The signage along Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway, across Magallanes Drive

A view of the facade from the very spacious parking lot

Driveway leading to the main entrance
If you're familiar with the Antonio's Group of Restaurants, Balay Dako (which means "big house" in Ilonggo) is a transformation of The Grill by Antonio's, one of the prominent Filipino restaurants in Tagaytay, along the ridge overlooking the lake. The three-storey house takes its design from The Ruins (a popular tourist spot in Bacolod) and features a private function area (still closed as of today) at the lower ground level, a restaurant at the main level, and a bar at the top floor (also closed as of today).

The Ruins at Bacolod

The Interiors

I reached the Comedor (comedor is Spanish for dining room) after going down a staircase from the entrance, seeing just a few tables filled. It's a vast space surrounded by ceiling-to-floor glass panels, with natural ventilation from some open glass windows.

Balay Dako blends the traditional with contemporary in its design, incorporating a mixture of wood, concrete, steel, marble and glass elements.

The Comedor or dining area

There's nothing extravagant about the table arrangement, just an understated elegance as seen in the details. Embossed table napkins, linen placemats, fine quality tablewares, and that emblem letter A representing a continuing tradition of world-class culinary excellence.

The table setup, and a proud letter A

The comedor offers a lot of dining areas for its guests, in various seating configurations for two to twenty or even more. The tables reminded me of the different kinds of tables you typicallly find in Filipino homes, some glass-topped, others made of wood or tiles.

Even the chairs are creatively varied, from contemporary to traditional, all tastefully mixed with the rest of the dining furniture.

Long wooden table near the bar service area, perfect for large families

Tables by the glass-window panels overlooking the lake

Jonel, my server for the day (a familiar friendly face from Breakfast at Antonio's), gamely posed with the greeter after she led me to my table. A table with the best seats in the house, offering a lovely view of the Taal Lake!

What I really love about Antonio's is how I feel welcome from the moment I park my car until I pay the bill and leave. And this is the same feeling I got here at Balay Dako.

Thanks, Jonel, for welcoming me to Balay Dako. Til my next visit! :)

The Menu

Jonel handed me the menu, a clean and simple clipboard-style collection of traditional Filipino dishes and Negrense classics (Chef Tony Boy Escalante grew up in Bacolod, hence the tribute to his culinary roots).

The menu
The menu has all my most loved Filipino dishes from kare kare to leche flan. Jonel recommended the Chicharon Baboy (pork skin cracklings) as an appetizer but since I was really hungry I went straight to soup -- Kadios, Baboy at Langka ("sauteed Bacolod beans flavored with pork belly and fresh jackfruit"), and Piniritong Tawilis ("fried freshwater sardines, a local delicacy"). And of course, rice.

Kadios, Baboy at Langka (P290)
Piniritong Tawilis (P200)

To cap off my meal, I ordered a cup of Cafe Cappuccino (P80). Jonel shares that the coffee beans they use are the same ones offered over at Breakfast at Antonio's, but presented Pinoy-style.

Balay Dako's Cappuccino is served sprinkled with cinnamon powder

I would have ordered some Antonio's breads to go with the coffee JUST for the Banana Macadamia Jam, but unfortunately the jams are not available here. Perhaps not YET. I did see a space by the entrance which is possibly for a deli/retail store.

These bottled Minced Tuyo with Garlic and Olive Oil are displayed along with the breads, some of which are available only at Balay Dako while some are staples of Breakfast at Antonio's.

Minced Tuyo with Garlic and Olive Oil

A staff preparing the bread display at the center of the hall

I reserved my craving for Banana Macadamia Jam for my next visit to Breakfast at Antonio's, meanwhile I happily settled for a scoop of avocado ice cream. I'll definitely check out Balay Dako again for dinner and once the bar opens!

Avocado Sorbetes (P50)

Me :)
Balay Dako
Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway, near Magallanes Drive
Walk-in / Reservation

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Lesson in Brand Loyalty

One thing I have learned about brand loyalty is having a personal, memorable connection whether to a specific product or a company.

A customer could be loyal to a certain product (like Jolly) but not necessarily to a company (like Fibisco). Others are loyal to a company (like Apple) and consequently remain loyal to any product that the company offers. Whatever the basis is for the loyalty, it usually represents something personal.

This brand loyalty is put to the test every time I would pass by the cookies and biscuits aisle of the supermarket. Usually, I'd stuff my "eat-this-during-emergency-bag" with goodies that I could nibble when stuck in traffic or simply on the verge on being hangry.

Let's go back to Jolly, this old school "finger cream sandwich cookies" made by Fibisco.

Back in graduate school, I worked as a part-time research assistant for my thesis adviser. She was a doing some research projects at that time, and so I volunteered to be her assistant. On scheduled days, I would stay at her office, work using her PC, and proudly contributed ideas (no matter how seemingly trivial) to her projects.

One typical work day, she left on her desk a pack of Jolly for me. She revealed it was her favorite, and that we could snack on it while working.
What made this simple experience memorable? Not only was this professor my thesis adviser. She was my mentor and the inspiration for this blog.

And up to this very day, I buy Jolly because I feel connected to her once again.

It reminds me of all the lessons I've learned from her - from living a simple life (no matter how rich or influential a person is) to being pleasant, punctual, and professional. She is such a beautiful person, inside and out, who showed love and care in the most genuine way I have ever known.

Ma'am V, this is for you. 

By the way, as a tribute to her legacy, I created a Facebook Page about her which you can check out HERE.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Jamba Juice Saves The Day!

It was a rather stressful day so I decided to grab something that would boost my seemingly "unboostable" spirit. That morning, my diet consisted of a banana, a Kitkat and a Cadbury. Not the healthiest of choices, but I felt good after all the feel-good chemicals entered my body. 

And then I passed by a Jamba Juice store. A nice, clean, very colorful store. And it was calling me. 

It was as if a voice was whispering behind my ears, "There, there, step inside and I'll make you feel better..."

So I went inside, checked out the table with a nearby socket, and placed down some stuff to reserve my space. Slowly, I walked towards the counter while looking at the menu board. Seriously, the words were Greek to me. Names of fruits -- all sorts of fruits -- in different combinations, each item bragging of their health points, you know... THOSE stuff.

"Miss, what can you recommend that's NOT sour?"

The kid inside me saw something like a chocolate drink on the menu board, but I was forcing myself to try something not manufactured, like a fruit. 

Thanks to the staff who helped me choose my drink, I ended up getting the Banana Berry Smoothie -- "bursting at the seams with berries, these bananas came to party and they brought all their friends. Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberry sherbet takes this smoothie to the next level. Maximum volume isn't good enough; this smoothie turns it up to 11"*

On the side, she recommended the garlic basil pretzel (better eaten warm) to go with my drink. I was feeling a little better just by her suggestions. I asked her if I could use the socket since I needed to plug my laptop. Like a ray on sunshine on a Sunday morning, she gladly said "Sure!" and "The Wifi password is ANTIOXIDANT."

Wow. The service here is really good.

I walked up to the bar to get my drink, and the barista (or should I say, smoothista?) handed me the drink with a sweet, sincere smile. I sipped the drink right away, and gushed, "This is good!"

And that, my friends, is how you make a customer feel good.

A nice, welcoming store. Friendly and knowledgeable staff. Good, quality products. And most importantly, a genuine and sincere service.

I'm definitely coming back.

* this is how they describe that drink in their website.

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