Chinese food for me is comfort food, and I enjoy eating it often, as I crave for it very often. To instantly satisfy cravings for it, I would normally go to restaurants like North Park, where I order their garlic squid and fried noodles. There is also Hen Lin and Kowloon for dimsum.
One my most guilty pleasures back when I was working in Quezon City was going drive thru at Kowloon in West Avenue. My usual midnight snack: Jumbo Pao and Pork Siomai, which I would munch on the way home.
If I want the complete, authentic experience, of course, nothing beats Chinatown in Binondo. For me, this would entail making a mini excursion, because I’d need to travel all the way from the south. Hence, trips to Binondo are carefully planned and maximized, to ensure I don’t waste on gas. Any trip to the area would usually start with nearby Tutuban Center, to buy fabric for clothes. I would usually time trips on a Sunday morning, when Manila is free of traffic — particularly on a Sunday when Manny Pacquiao has a televised fight. I’m really not a boxing fan (and definitely not a fan of the hundreds of TV commercials being played during his fights), and I take advantage of his fights to go to Manila without any hassle.
Lunch, then for me, would entail going to President Tea House for their Lemon Chicken, then a stop at Eng Bee Tin for hopia and machang.
Last Sunday evening, while I was at Alabang Town Center, I again found myself craving for Chinese food. Since I was in a hurry, I thought of Food Choices, ATC’s food court. I was about to go to a Chinese fast food, when I saw a hole-in-the-wall President Tea House Express. It turns out that it has been operating in Alabang for two months. I was skeptical at first, and so I asked the server was if this was the very same restaurant in Chinatown, to which she positively replied.
I saw President’s all-time hits like Lemon Chicken, Sweet and Sour Pork, Beef with Broccoli, and Chicken with Peas and Quail Eggs. Of course, their yang chow fried rice was available, and so were different dimsum dishes like Hakaw, Pork Siomai and Japanese Siomai. They even had chicken feet or the Adidas, as we Pinoys prefer to call it.
Unlike President Tea House or its bigger counterpart (its mother ship restaurant) in Chinatown, the servings were customized to the food court crowd. One has the option to order combo meals which range from 100 to 145 pesos.
I ordered the P145 combo meal, which includes any two dishes, rice (plain or yang chow), a vegetable side dish, and a few pieces of chips (drink not yet included). I chose lemon chicken and beef with broccoli. I also ordered a serving of Hakaw for P65.
While eating at a food court definitely pales in comparison to Chinatown, the food was enough to almost bring me there. Everything was virtually as authentic as it should be. The beef was very soft. However, it would have been a perfect experience I had known that the lemon chicken wasn’t warm enough. So ask the servers to heat it up for you if you order this. Also, don’t expect too much from the vegetable side dish. The vegetable side dish is only a few pieces of chopped cabbage in (oyster?) sauce. And the chips could be crispier.
All things considered, I would go back to this place again soon, and would highly consider this for take out. Unfortunately, they don’t have delivery service. Aside from their Alabang Town Center branch, I was told that President Tea House Express has branches at Glorietta 4, and at the SM Mall of Asia. They also sell frozen packs of their dimsum products for P200 per pack.
The food is perfect for meals with family and friends — and of course, a quick fix for anyone who craving for authentic Chinese food. How comforting!
Now, if only there were also an Eng Bee Tin store in Alabang.