Taiwanese cuisine, a lighter take on Chinese food fare, has become quite popular in the Metro especially with the fame and glory of Lugang Café. However, this Taiwanese gem in Greenhills and SM Mall of Asia has found a new competition in the name of Shi Lin, a restaurant inspired by the Shilin district in Taipei.
Two weeks ago, during Father's Day, I convinced my dad to have lunch in the Ortigas area. If you know my parents, they'd probably reject my idea since they despise long drives. Fortunately, luck was on my side as my dad miraculously approved. And although The Podium was packed with families celebrating the day's occasion, we were lucky to score a table at Shi Lin in just a few minutes. (Oh okay, 15 minutes to be exact.)
The Steamed Dumplings
Shi Lin in The Podium has light-colored walls, sleek contemporary atmosphere, warm ambient lighting and comfortable seats mostly for fours. Nothing too fancy. However, it excited me and my tummy with its clear-glassed dimsum kitchen exposing skilled dimsum makers meticulously crafting pieces of its famous soup dumplings.
As expected, we first ordered a 10-piece serving of Xiao Long Bao (P230) -- light steamed buns containing pork broth inside. Hailed as Spot.ph's Top 1 Xiao Long Bao, I had high expectations which were gracefully met upon taking my first spoonful. The dumpling's skin was soft, light and silky, the perfect coat to encase a delicate yet flavorful hot soup. Although I prefer my dumplings with a dab of black vinegar, eating a piece on its own was still very delightful as the soupy explosion had a nice savory, ginger flavor.
Our soupy start was followed by Shrimp and Pork Shiomai (P165), 6 pieces of another equally soupy dimsum item. Like the soup dumplings, these babies also have pork broth at the bottom. However, atop the soupy surprise sits a mixture of pork and a piece of shrimp. These dimsum treats were also tasty, but had a tougher skin than xiao long bao.
The Small Plates
The selection at Shi Lin isn't as extensive as those of Chinese restaurants. There also weren't a lot of main entrées that my family and I can share with. However, we appreciated that there is an interesting list of short orders mostly good for two.
We ordered a serving of Century Egg with Bonito Flakes (P95) which is just sliced century eggs with Japanese bonito flakes and chopped green onions. My family isn't as crazy for century eggs as I am, so I was very happy to finish this plate on my own. This serving was good especially with a hint of saltiness from the bonito flakes. Nothing extraordinary though. (What more can you expect with a century egg dish anyway?)
My dad then ordered this plate of Japanese Cucumber (P105), slices of Japanese cucumber pickled with rice vinegar, salt, onions and chili. While I'm not a big fan of pickles for a meal starter, I actually liked this dish as it had a nice combination of salty, sour and spicy, as well as a lovely crunch with every bite.
I don't know what my dad was thinking when he ordered a Seafood Omelette (P88). (He probably ran out of items to order?) But although I didn't approve of my dad's impulsive choice, I actually liked how savory and full of seafood flavors this omelette was. It was perfect with rice, or simply by itself since it also had a sweet and spicy sauce on top.
We also had a serving of Fried Shrimp and Pork Wonton (P125), crispy pieces of shrimp and pork-filled fried dumplings served with a sweet chili sauce. Although I didn't quite dig this one, my dad and my little sister seemed to have liked it a lot. These 6 pieces of wonton weren't enough, and we went for another round.
My choice of short order was the Spicy Spareribs (P289), a crisp-fried plate of flavorful spareribs with a really strong spicy zing. Although I liked how savory every piece of this dish was, the spiciness was a little bit overbearing. Even my little sis who loves spicy foods admit that she can't quite take it gracefully without a cold beverage on the side.
We also had an order of Mushroom and Vegetable Bun (P108), 2 pieces of steamed buns filled with what I believe were shiitake mushrooms and spinach. Although there wasn't anything extraordinary with the buns, they were soft and chewy as they should be. However, the savory, tangy and healthy flavors of the filling made munching a piece really enjoyable. Kids, as well as people who don't enjoy veggies, might not get easily accustomed to the taste though.
The Soups and Noodles
My family and I already ate a lot, but we thought we were not quite satisfied yet as we haven't had heavy dishes. Our main course for the visit would probably be the 2 orders of Fried Rice with Shrimp, Pork and Egg (P128) which I even forgot to take a photo of, and servings of soup items which eventually left us really full.
Among the list of soups, I went for the Hot and Sour Soup (P108). Although Shi Lin's version didn't have as much bamboo shoots and pork as I would've wanted, this bowl definitely got the flare. It may not look red, but this was really quite spicy.
My mom went for the Shrimp and Pork Wanton Soup (P165). This bowl despite being tasty, was delicate and very mellow. Even the wantons weren't too overbearing, so a bowl is definitely perfect to keep yourself warm during the rainy days, or to calm you down when having a PMS. (Okay, or just a bad day.)
While my little sis isn't a fan of soups, my dad on the other hand, didn't fail to get his choice of a hearty bowl -- Noodles with Braised Beef Soup (P248) which was the total opposite of what my mom had. This bowl was an explosion of strong savory flavors. The broth was sweet and very tasty, while the beef pieces were juicy and very succulent.
Shi Lin also has a nice selection of unqiue desserts. However, my sis and I skipped the meal ender to give way for Mochi Creme. So, let me just share what drinks we had to accompany our bountiful Taiwanese lunch.
Most Chinese restaurants provide free house tea, but not at Shi Lin. We ordered a pot of refillable House Tea (P40) which was a very unique blend of Taiwan oolong -- a mix of earthy and minty flavors perfect to cleanse the palate. Good thing it was unlimited too as we've had 4 to 5 rounds. My sis and I on the other hand, ordered another drink for ourselves -- the Green Mistique Iced Tea (P60) which was a light, herbal and refreshing blend of green tea, jasmine with mango, ginger and schizandra.
After the 2-hour lunch, I can look back and say that we've had a really enjoyable lunch at Shi Lin. The dining space was clean, service was fast and very courteous, and the food didn't only taste great, but were also reasonably priced. However, all of us in the family agreed that Shi Lin is probably a better merienda destination than a lunch dining spot for its lacking of heavy main entrées. Nevertheless, I know we'll return back to this restaurant for another gastronomic Taiwanese feast.
Ambiance - 4/5
Service - 4/5
Price - 4/5
Overall Value - 4/5
Shi Lin, The Podium
3/F The Podium, ADB Ave. Ortigas Center
Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila