Sunday, March 15, 2015

Food Review: StrEat at Maginhawa Food Park and Bricks and Copper (March 13, 2015)

Last March 13, 2015, I had the opportunity of being invited to StrEat, an event organized by Maginhawa Food Park, a newly opened vacant lot turned into a food complex. The park is situated in Teachers Village, Quezon City, a location commonly known as the hub for up-and-coming restaurants, coffee-shops, and watering holes in the North.

According to organizer Ms. Chesca, the place was conceptualized as a convenient and efficient use to her family's real estate reserve and as a substitute to constructing a building with numerous requirements such as permits and licenses. Admittedly, her idea was well in point with the nature of businesses in the neighborhood, and the fact that people have known the area as a food-lover's paradise. She also envisioned the concept as an open space to provide variety to an already congested Maginhawa street. She stated that open spaces are usually rare, and that more parks are needed in urban centers. Good thing her idea was also coupled with an income-generating venture. In this case, she invited food concessionaires to set up shop and provide a variety of tastes to the venue. Some of the stalls were actual food trucks; while others were made out of metal containers and easily transferable by truck. Ms. Chesca mandated these concessionaires to conform to a design that mimicked the layout of a hipster trailer park.

At the day I went, the Food Park had a bonfire planned at 8pm and a live band as well. I arrived early, about 5 pm. At this point, the venue was already starting to feel up with a lot of patrons from the neighboring universities and offices. I even had a few acquaintances who were already lining up for the food there.

Ms. Chesca introduced me to Atty. Arnel, one of the concessionaires in the venue. He was the proprietor of Bricks and Copper, a Turkish-inspired restaurant with a variety of Middle Eastern dishes. Atty Arnel graciously provided me and my friend with generous samples of their sumptuous Turkish fare. During the conversation, the good proprietor had a lot to say about his prior experience in the legal profession and his subsequent foray into the restaurant business. He told us that he gained the idea of starting a joint with Middle Eastern fare from his Turkish client. After tasting the latter's dishes, he told us that he immensely enjoyed the experience, and that he envisioned the idea to start his own restaurant business. Hence, Bricks and Copper was born. It was originally confined to the Shaw area in Pasig, but Atty. Arnel thought of expanding it to north Quezon City in order to reach more customers. After seeing that the slots in the food park were for rent for affordable prices, he immediately set up shop there. He also thought of the restaurant as convenient place where he could wine and dine clients in his law practice. Now that's practicality and marketing rolled into one! He also takes pride in the fact that his beef and chicken dishes are charcoal grilled, and hence, very tasty.
Apart from that, the pita bread and other pastries from his establishment are baked fresh every day. Add to this the fact that most of his dishes are heavily vegetable infused and compatible with a healthy diet.

As for the dishes, we were able to taste their affordable Pita Doner. At 90 pesos, it's quite a steal.  The dish is an exciting variation of shawarma with an airy and chewy pita wrapper, thinly sliced strips of beef or chicken (depending on the order) and garnished with onions, cucumber, and tomatoes. It goes well with the spicy chili sauce and the standard garlic yogurt sauce. Our food tasting didn't end there. We were given a generous serving of Iskender Kebab, a mix of charcoal grilled beef with a generous helping of vegetables and chili sauce. The mix also had a good amount of pita bread as a side dish. At 250 pesos (small), the dish was very filling. We were also able to try Pita Bread with two variations of sauces. The one is with Humus, a traditional Middle Eastern dressing used in a number of countries. At 80 pesos, the sauce comes with pita bread. We were also given a spicer variant called Ezme. This sauce had a garnish of chilies and had a salsa-like texture. It also comes at 80 pesos with 4 slices of that airy and chewy pita bread. Our dishes, of course, were not complete without imported Turkish Sirma Water. According to Atty. Arnel, the sparkling drink is usually preferred by the Turks when eating traditional fare. Its sweet taste tends to offset the spicy Mideast offerings. A bottle usually costs about 60 pesos, and is a fresh deviation from the soft drinks we Filipinos are so used to. We both enjoyed the meal so much that we bought our own Pita Doner. The taste was simply very irresistible, and our experience with this restaurant completely takes away our negative stereotypes of spicy Middle Eastern food. We surely would like to come back again for a second helping.

The place also offers the traditional "hookah", a pipe used by the Arabs to smoke tobacco. The variant here offers scented fruit vapors instead for 200 pesos. When we come back next week, we surely hope to try it.

The food park has been open for its test run since January 2015. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 5 pm to 2 am, and caters to students, office workers, families, and pretty much anyone who likes affordable gastronomic experiences. It is located near Mini Stop Maginhawa, and is in front of News Barbers. Bricks and Copper is also open there at those times. Its main branch is in Dumlao Sports Center, 304 Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong, in front of GSIS.

Pictures: (Please bear with me for the low-res quality)

The food trucks near the entrance- note the red VW Combi serving Mexican food

The venue at 5 pm

Other concessionaires, including an ice cream and pastry store

Great Burger Food Truck

Dining Area

The bonfire pit.

Another shot of the open area


Ms. Chesca talking to one of the concessionaires

Bricks and Copper - A restaurant with a wide variety of Turkish Dishes

The Menu with affordable food choices - the pictures of the menu items are clearly shown so you know what you're getting

Pita Doner (Beef) - shawarma with a chewy crust and tasty beef filling - best paired with yoghurt and chili sauce (90 pesos)

Pita Doner (Chicken)- same as above with juicy chicken for filling (90 pesos)

The owner, Atty. Arnel, being interviewed by my friend - he surely had a lot to ask about

The Menu - note that the prices are just a little bit above 100 pesos per dish

Iskender Kebab - beef garnished with onions, tomatoes, celery, and a helping of spicy sauce (250 pesos for small size, 450 pesos for large)

Hummus- a Middle Eastern staple which is comprised of an oily sauce flavored with olives
Iskender Kebab, and Pita Doner

another picture of the Iskender Kebab

Hummus With Pita Bread  (80 pesos)

Sirma Sparkling Water, a staple drink for the Turks - pretty sweet and flavorful (60 pesos)

Sirma Water and the Iskender Kebab - a good combination: a sweet drink to temper the spicy sauce on the Kebab

Yoghurt sauce on top of the Pita Doner - 

Pita Bread with Ezme, a spicy salsa-like sauce (80 pesos)

The other concessionaires - note the lively atmosphere

Another shot of the food stalls
Bricks and Copper Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato