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The best food hookups

By SHARWIN TEE, The Philippine STAR Published May 12, 2022 5:00 am

I know there are people out there who think that chefs like me are “cool kids,” where we can go around to hundreds of restaurants and get the best discounts and get into exclusive events. Sad to say, we only wish it were true. Outside of our respective kitchens, chefs are also regular customers, always on the lookout for great dining experiences and more importantly, great deals. I’m not completely useless, though. I do get around and I can introduce you to a few awesome hookups.

Be a cool kid

Knowing a chef or even being a chef doesn’t guarantee you a discount when you enter a restaurant, but being a member of PandaPro does. Foodpanda, which we’ve come to rely on for our food deliveries over the past few years, launched their PandaPro subscription in 2020. Members who signed up got a number of benefits whenever they ordered food delivery through the app. Now, with more and more people going out to eat in restaurants, Foodpanda has expanded members’ benefits by launching the PandaPro dine-in program. All members with the app can literally walk in to their dozens of restaurant partners and expect a flat discount on their total bill, which includes food and drink. The best part? The discount is up to 25% off in most cases.

Even a “certified tito” like me doesn’t have to stress the tech part. It’s as simple as turning on the app, picking the “dine-in” option and checking what discount or promo the restaurant partner is offering. The app gives you the promo code, which you can show the server and that is pretty much it.

I’m particularly excited to get my discount for the monthly fix of Loaded Boneless Wings from Chili’s and I also got to try some of the delicious fare from The European Diner in BGC.

The deliciously rich Paella di Carne from TED is great and it becomes quite a steal with the PandaPro subscription.

On a recent visit to TED, I got to try some of their most requested dishes and it was definitely a happy time. I definitely enjoyed their Paella de Carne with succulent meat and Bomba rice working in harmony. The crispy and juicy porchetta was lovely, too. I would definitely pay full price for those dishes, but with the PandaPro providing a 25% percent discount, that is a steal. I predict a future of many delicious meals at discounted prices in my future as I discover more of PandaPro’s restaurant partners.

Porchetta from TED is crisp and juicy.

Make your own exclusive

People think there are secret dinners out there, with top-of-the-line ingredients and perfectly prepared meals, where only the top chefs and foodies get invited. Well, to tell you the truth, there probably are, but it doesn’t mean one can’t arrange their own exclusive dinner, too, right? Let me provide you with an awesome hookup.

Bambi’s Gourmet Kitchen has been providing some of the best food out of her home kitchen for years, but what a gift it was when she decided to provide full service, private dining in people’s homes. Contacting Bambi through her Instagram account  gets you one of the best Japanese-inspired multi-course dinners in your home, making you that person in the barkada who “knows people” and “serves the best dinners.” She will customize the menu according to your preferences and budget, but my advice is to let her take the wheel and create the menu for you. We did, and the meal was marvelous.

She started us off with an awesome parade of starters, from the freshest sashimi, like hamachi, trevally and chutoro tuna to a sublime octopus carpaccio. The highlight for me, however, was the brilliant dashi jelly with chives and ikura — a fresh, cool dish with wonderful subtle flavors perfect for Manila weather.

Make sure to get tempura from Bambi’s Gourmet Kitchen when you book a private dinner.

The rest of the meal was not too shabby, either, with absurdly tender Kurobuta pork, wonderfully rich wagyu beef and an absolutely brilliant sea bass with a zesty mushroom broth. Since her meals are customizable, I suggest you request Bambi to provide you with her ebi tempura as well. As far as I am concerned, it’s some of the best tempura I have ever had.

No kerfuffle, just a croffle

With all of the food choices out there, it’s easy to let perfectly good products slip past your awareness if you don’t have a chef friend who’s connected. I’m sharing another pair of my hookups here, this time on baked products that may have slipped your radar.

Some of the fluffiest cheese rolls from Indulgence by Irene

If you’re on the lookout for cheese rolls, you should try the ones from Indulgence by Irene . These are outrageously fluffy with the perfect balance of salty cheese and sweet sugar on top. My family couldn’t get enough of them, so I only got to taste one.

The best of both worlds with the “croffle” from The Ugly Mug

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for croissants or waffles, you can have both with the “croffles” from The Ugly Mug are an amazing study in texture, where you get the crisp that every good waffle has with the chew that a perfectly baked croissant has. It truly is all the good parts of the croissant in the wonderful shape of a waffle. If you can’t visit the cafe, they also deliver through the Foodpanda app.

It’s not who you know

Sometimes, we observe other people and envy all the treats and benefits they get, thinking it’s all about the connections they have or the people they know. Sometimes, we forget that the best hookups are just an app subscription or an IG direct message away. No worries, I have the hookups and I’ll keep them coming.