Wednesday, April 9, 2014

An Autograph of TSC Signature

WITH A GROWING and lively food scene in Riyadh, it's best for establishments to make their brands stand out in any way possible. Meet TSC Signature, the full dine-in restaurant of the popular "The Sandwich Company" shops, ergo the "TSC", which has been bubbling with great reviews lately. I was lucky enough to get a treat from one of my friends to come and eat here and I've already seen people talking about it on Foursquare that I simply ought to try it. 

First off, I will apologize for not taking any photos of the interiors of the place because it's a shame that I didn't because the place was pristine! The whole set-up of the restaurant spoke to me...It wasn't a huge space but it appeared that every inch was utilized efficiently and decorated attractively. Upon entering, you will be welcomed by a lush, white seating for waiting guests and inside, you will find dining booths that are aligned along the glass windows that served as a frame for a beautiful garden landscape situated just outside. Open seating was also available.

It would appear that TSC Signature was a fancy, expensive place to eat in, but in fact, it was really quite affordable for a casual dining restaurant. We gazed over the menu and found ourselves less worried. :P They primarily offered burgers, pizzas and pastas (Italian-inspired mostly) and it was a good thing that we hadn't had anything to eat hours before so we were ready to gorge in. 

First up, on the appetizers...our friend J is a big French Fries Addict. I mean, she can definitely survive on planet Earth if fries were the only thing left to eat. So when we saw the Fries Lovers item on the menu, I knew she would definitely order it. 

For the French Fry Lover

The selection is made of regular fries, curly fries, sweet potato fries and potato wedges. I liked the sweet potato fries the best and it's good for sharing. Good thing even though J is a French Fries Addict, she doesn't mind sharing. :P (Love yah moight!

Our generous benefactor of the night was G, who ordered an appetizer platter that came in an interesting kind of serving plate that was black and felt like it was made of wood. We would later find out that the rest of the main dishes were served on that same plate. 

Chicken Platter

Unfortunately, I found the chicken on this platter dry and a bit hard. Especially the skewered ones. So it was only the jalapeno cheese that we ended up enjoying. I'm not too sold on this one. 

Meanwhile, I am a big fan of rocket leaves / arugula / gerger and a year ago in our trip to Maldives, I fell in love with figs. So when I saw that they had a Fig (+Arugula) Salad, my heart skipped a beat and it was my first, definite choice. 

Fig Salad
It was tasty and the flavors went well together, but I guess it was too much for just one person to eat all by himself. Too bad my companions weren't a big fan of veggies so there was a lot of arugula left to ignore. In times like these, it's safe to say that one order of this salad is good for sharing. I did eat all the figs's a rare find! (At least for me). 

We also wanted to try one of their soups so we had the Seafood Chowder. It looked very classy and was also very sumptuous. It was the right kind of creamy with enough varied seafoods like scallops, fish, shrimp and even a big piece of mussel. This dish deserved a thumbs up!

Very, very delicious chowder.

You would think those appetizers alone should have had us filled already...and we were. But in true Filipino foodtrippin' style, we still orders some main course (and dessert!). We couldn't let the treat of our good friend, G go to waste... :P I'm just teasing. Of course we had to try their signature items! 

Pesto Burger
From their long list of seemingly delicious burgers (I was torn between the one with avocado and the one with portobello mushrooms and this one!) I ended up ordering their Pesto Burger with mozzarella and parmesan cheese topped with sun-dried tomatoes and, you guessed it, a handful of arugula. The waiter helped me decide among my choices and it was a real winner! I think this burger was only 35-38SR and it was definitely, definitely great value for my money (well, my friend's money..haha). Every bite was lip-smacking...the richness of the cheese and the subtle sharpness of the pesto went perfectly with the meat. The sun-dried tomato gave it the right amount of tang and the arugula gave it a crunchy texture -- Howaw! It was a party in my mouth! (Do I still need to give a two thumbs up for this, or did my manner of describing it told you I loved it already?)

Blackberry Burger
We had high hopes for this burger. It was novel. It sounded quirky. But as intriguing as the name was, it felt a bit lacking if stacked against the flavor standards already set by the pesto burger. The sauce just didn't have that much of a "punch" to add to the burger. I mean, what could this sauce do for me that ketchup wouldn't do? That was the honest thought in my mind. Other than giving it a fruity aftertaste, my verdict on this Blackberry Burger is just Oh-kay. Nice try. :)

Their version of Chicken Carbonara

G ordered pasta to detour from our burger choices and it was another delicious choice. Creamy and tasty with fresh mushrooms (you could tell). Plus it was hefty and good for sharing. Will recommend. :) 

Other popular items on their menu was their Signature Burger and their Tenderloin Steak (which I believe Sundrenched has already tried). 

To round off the evening, along with a free serving of tea (they have this promo on Foursquare when you check-in, you get free tea/coffee) was their version of a Chocolate Fondant. Nothing too special on my book (as you know I am a Chocolate Fondant aficionado) but it was enough to end the night on a sweet note. 

Service was really good by the way, thanks to an almost all-Filipino staff, if I am not mistaken. Top scores for ambience and decor. Total wallet damage for all that we had? Less than 300SR. There were three of us so I would say that's not bad. If you ask me if I'll be going back there, my answer would be a definitive, YES. And I can sign in on that. ;)

You can find TSC Signature along Abdullah Al Hamdan St. (adjacent to Tahlia St.). It is across Ketchup and Munch Bakery (if you know that area). If not, check out their location on Foursquare and make sure to check out their Facebook and Instagram page. 

Happy food trip!


Twitter: @tsc_signature
Instagram: @tsc_signature
Tel: 011-293-9693

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sweet Somethings

Riyadhizens have a major sweet tooth. Na-ah, don’t contradict me on that because I worked in the healthcare industry, not as a medical professional but still, and I know that most of the topics discussed in Saudi Arabia is about diabetes. Everyone loves sweets and there’s nothing wrong with it as long as consumed in moderation. Right? 

I just found out right now that I’m a bit over the normal blood sugar level and I need to start keeping my sugar intake in check. How sad is that? Anyway, that being said, I am now presenting to you some sweet escapes I’ve found in Riyadh… what? I am truly contradicting myself here. Well, what I’m thinking is, if I can’t eat more sweets now, at least I get to share these foodie discoveries with you. You eat for me. ;) 

The Cake House 

My go-to bakeshop for impromptu cakes
In my six years in the Kingdom, I have developed an instinct to look and feel differently towards the cakes served to me. I find most cakes here, especially the commercial ones, too sweet and too syrupy. They lack the fluffiness of a Goldilocks cake or the creaminess of a Red Ribbon chocolate icing. I miss those in the Philippines… until I discovered the next best thing in Riyadh: The Cake House. 

Yummy cakes!
Not at all cloying
The cakes in Cake House are named and flavored after the most popular chocolates here in Saudi Arabia: Mars, Galaxy, Candy, etc. And they also have a non-chocolate variety that I love: Honey. Their icing is not too sweet (almost unsweetened, claimed my brother who’s starting to share a free space in this blog everytime I have a food/resto entry) and their cake is soft and fluffy. Another great thing about the cakes in this shop is the very affordable price. SR59 and above is not at all bad. I will eat this cake every week if it doesn’t make me a diabetic. They also make customized cakes for every occasion. You should check out their wedding cakes that have traditional white icing piping and ribbons all around. So nostalgic! 


Piece of Cake 

The Piece of Cake store is cuuute!
While waiting for the prayer time to finish so we can eat in the Backyard Grill, my friend and I decided to check out what’s beyond the corner of the street (just because we’re always curious and on the move like that). That’s when we discovered a dainty store named Piece of Cake. And guess what they offer? Haha! 

Pick your theme and character.
Don't wear the gown; eat it! :P
Mini cupcakes in varius flavors
Piece of Cake is a bakeshop that specializes in customized fondant cakes. Whatever your theme is, they can do it. If they can do this huge bridal gown cake (priced at a whopping SR 7,000 btw), I doubt they cannot do anything you request them! Their take on character cakes are awesome! We tried their cupcakes and I wasn’t wowed but for a cupcake, it’s fine. 

Do not blame me if your sugar levels go up than the normal okay? I am merely suggesting. Hahaha! Have a sweet week, Riyadhizens! Keep the happiness flowing! ~ Sundrenched

The Cake House
King Abdullah Road 
(just before reaching Takhasussi Street)
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
(various location; website is disabled)


Piece of Cake
Abdallah Al Hamdan Street,
Sulaimania, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
T: +966-11-4664970

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Uber On, Riyadhizens!

I was just reading about Uber Black in Manila when I chanced upon a tweet saying that Uber has arrived in Riyadh. I was intrigued. 

Uber is a mobile app that allows you to reserve a private driver that drives a sleek, executive-style car. Let's make something straight though: Uber is the technology that connects people to licensed drivers through registered partners. It's not the car company. The company that provides their luxe cars are based in Riyadh and is their partner in bringing this service to the Kingdom's capital. Founded in 2009, Uber is now serving 70 cities and is rapidly expanding its global presence. To me, it’s the answer to our transportation woes in Riyadh, especially for us women. 

As I’ve said in my reviews of two taxi apps now operating in Riyadh, this city is a unique market when it comes to transportation. Women can’t drive and we can’t depend on regular taxi cabs either. So we are always waiting for our fathers or husbands to drive us around town and you know how tricky that is. We have to appeal to them and pray that they are in a good mood to drive us. So finally having enough transportation options is great! 

The Pink Tarha ladies mainly use the limo service of our workplace. (I have long graduated from depending on my dad to drive me; that only worked three years ago when I was fairly “new.” Now he says I’m seasoned and I can navigate my way already. Haha!) We already know our drivers and we can trust them. However, being a service of a huge workplace, our trusted drivers are also the go-to drivers of others. Most often than not, they’re no longer available when we call them because they have a customer or they’re too far away and stuck in traffic. Thus the need for options, options, options! 

Ladies and gentlemen, Uber has arrived.
Uber Riyadh’s arrival in the city is timely. Who doesn’t want to have his/her own “private driver” driving a fancy car? But this time, you have everyone’s private driver! It suits the passenger with a good taste. So here’s how the app works: 
1. Download the Uber app on your mobile phone. 
2. Sign up with your name, mobile number, email address, language you wish to use, and billing information. Yes, you need to have a valid credit card to use Uber. This is the only mode of payment they have now. 
3. Read the terms and conditions and click Sign Up! 

I tried the Uber service one day to go home. I wish I had a fancy event to go to but during that time, there wasn’t and I couldn’t wait to use the Uber app so I can share the experience with you already so I said to myself, “Well, I would just have to go home in style then!” 

The Uber is app is nice and very professional-looking. The app immediately pointed out my location (which is a street away btw). I clicked on the car button and it immediately requested a car for me. Then it confirmed that a driver is already en route. 

Finding and found!
Look at that cute black car button! So cute and appropriate. I can see it moving in the map so I know exactly where the driver, whose name, details, and picture appear in the page, is. It also tells me how many minutes the driver will arrive in my location. Because Uber Riyadh is just in its soft launch, it only has 10 cars as of the moment. They will eventually roll in more when they launch formally soon. 

The Uber has a very cute car icon... and a cool option to share fare!
One of the features of the Uber app is the “Split Fare” which you can opt for if you’re going out with a friend and you’re picking him/her up in his/her place. I haven’t tried that feature so I’ll update next time. 

The driver was a few minutes late but maybe that’s because of the wrong location that the GPS provided. (You can drag the pin to your correct location, which I didn't do because I was such a noob, haha!) I called the driver and he was friendly enough to accommodate my directions. It didn’t arrive in a GMC Yukon too. But it did arrive in a GMC Denali which is great! The car was clean and nice. And off to the house I go. 

This is my taxi?!? O.O
Because this is my first ride, I was able to use a coupon (UberRiyadh) for a SR100 worth of ride so I got this trip for free. It made me wish I went to somewhere father away. Haha! I received my receipt via email. It cost me SR 27. Pretty much affordable if I compare it to the SR 20 I pay on a regular taxi (which I only use when push comes to shove) and the SR 25 I pay on my trusted limo service. What’s SR 2 if it guarantees a safe and comfortable ride? Also, they'll be ushering in add-on services that will make your ride feel really luxe (fancy dates and water anyone?).

Driving in style!
The base fare is currently at SR 9 and an additional SR 0.75 per minute and/or SR 1.75 per kilometer. No idea if this was in effect already when I tried Uber because it said in their blog that a promotional rate is currently going on (15% off standard price). There is a fee of SR 20 if you cancel your car request after 5 minutes. 

Now here’s some good news for you, Riyadhizens! The Pink Tarha has been given a special promo code that will entitle you to a SR80 discount on each of your first two rides using Uber! Just download Uber in your iOS or Android phone, sign up, and go to promotions. Enter ThePinkTarha and your first two rides in Uber will be free (provided you don’t go over the SR 80 limit of course!). This promo code applies to new users only so SIGN UP NOW! Easy eh? 
PROMO CODE: ThePinkTarha
Enjoy Uber and share your experience to us! ~ Sundrenched

Uber Riyadh 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Holy (Big) Smoke (Burger)!

Whoops, sorry folks! Where have I been during the past week? I have been very busy with errands but don’t you worry, I do not forget about The Pink Tarha blog. Sometimes I just need a break so I can come up with more words to use in my entries. I can’t help but feel repetitive. Speaking of repetition, here’s another proof that the burger trend in Riyadh is on a repeat button and is not slowing down… the Big Smoke Burger. 

Welcome to your burger dreamland.
Big Smoke Burger is a Toronto-based gourmet burger chain. I have no idea why I initially thought it originated from Jeddah. The branches here in Saudi Arabia are franchised from Canada. Finally, the poutine in their menu makes total sense. What’s a poutine you ask? Well, it’s this: 

One of Canada's most common food
Hand-cut fries with cheese curds and gravy. I’m a bit ignorant of poutine but in Jollibee, I usually dip my fries on their gravy (or the ice cream, depends on my mood) so I’m not so sure what’s special with this. Poutine originated in Quebec, Canada. Someone thought of putting cheese curds on their fries and the sauce was later added to keep the fries warm longer. 

Big Smoke Burger’s poutine is a bit lackluster. I mean, for a Canadian brand, they should do well on this side dish because it’s so common in their country. But the poutine we tried here is bland and didn’t create a good impression on me and my brother (who you all know by now is very picky with his food; he’s a harsh critic I tell you, haha!). I’d rather eat the fries on its own, thank you. 

On our table
I was really excited to try the burger because one of our readers emailed us to tell us that we gotta try Big Smoke Burger because it was newly-opened (maybe 3 months ago) and the line is long. It must be THAT GOOD right?! Big Smoke Burger is known for its handcrafted burger that has a unique smoky, homemade flavor. 

When we went, there was no line but there were a good number of customers taking bites of their orders already. I excitedly chose the Blue Burger; ordering at the counter and eagerly waiting for it in one of their tables. Apart from the ‘always fresh, never frozen’ burger patty made of Ontario AAA beef, my chosen burger has gorgonzola (what is known as the blue cheese ergo “blue burger”, not because it’s colored blue haha), avocado, rosemary garlic mayo, tomato, and lettuce. 

This burger ain't blue
The burger section (I had the tomato removed on my burger).
My heart stopped a bit when I bit into the burger because I was expecting a lot. I am no burger connoisseur but I can say that this burger packs a lot of goodness. The patty is juicy and lean. It’s thick and perfectly-cooked. However, the salty cheese was masking the flavor of the beef and all I was getting is this salty bite from the buttery blue-veined cheese. I was scraping the cheese of my burger much to the chagrin of my brother who ordered the Big Smoke Burger (because according to him, you have to zone on the item in the menu named after the restaurant because it means it’s the best right?). 

Whoah burger!!!
The Big Smoke Burger has caramelized onions, smoked cheddar, tomato, lettuce and horseradish mayo. With his choice, the smokiness of the beef is more pronounced. If it were me, I would have enjoyed it but for him, the burger was overpriced with nothing spectacular or unique that would set it apart from others. Believe me, he tried a lot of burgers in Riyadh already and I am not about to challenge him with his comments. 

The Big Smoke Burger
I agree to his comments to an extent. With the burgeoning burger field in Riyadh, it’s difficult to stand out. Without the WOW factor, patrons would have a hard time to return to a burger shop especially if there are a lot of burger shops to try out there. However, I enjoyed Big Smoke’s burger patty. They can really take pride in high quality ingredients they use in creating theirs. And I heard the onion rings are good too and that you’d be crazy if you don’t try the Crazy Burger and Lamb Burger. 

Order from the counter and wait.
The Big Smoke Burger spot in Tahlia Street is a bit hidden in the construction that is going on in Riyadh’s busiest street. Good thing, its sign and colors of yellow and black are so vivid you’ll easily see it. If not, it’s just across the Al Hilal boutique and beside Criollo. The staff are friendly and the ambiance is quite open and airy with high ceilings. It can get packed at times. ~ Sundrenched

Big Smoke Burger 
Tahlia Street, 
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 
Twitter: @BigSmokeBurger

Friday, March 14, 2014

Iconic Riyadh Marriott Hotel Relaunches

The Pink Tarha was invited last week to the Australian Food Festival at the Marriott Hotel. Apart from the very good food, we were mesmerized with the newly-renovated hotel’s lobby. Sampaguita Pride couldn’t help but reminisce about the hotel, having seen it in its heyday as a kid and how historic it looked like before she left for the Philippines last year. Even I was really impressed by the Marriott’s renovation. From being ‘a blast from past’, Marriott has now earned its place in the present; both as an icon of the glorious days and a beacon of change. 

The Riyadh Marriott Hotel from afar

Mr. Muin Serhan, General Manager, Riyadh Marriott Hotel; Dr. Badr Al-Badr, CEO Saudi Hotels & Resorts Company; Mr. Abdullah Al-Issa, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Saudi Hotels & Resorts Company; Mr. Alex Kyriakidis, President and Managing Director, Marriott International Middle East and Africa; and Mr Ibrahim Barghout, Area Vice President Middle East and Africa, Marriott International
Last March 10, Marriott International celebrated the re-launch of the Riyadh Marriott Hotel, their first property in the Middle East and Africa. Opened in 1980 (yes 1980!!! I wasn’t even born yet!), the Riyadh Marriott Hotel is an iconic landmark in Riyadh. “The Riyadh Marriott Hotel is a beacon It showcases our authenticity as a company: our roots and the strength of our partnership with Saudi Hotels and Resorts Company, the owners of the property for more than 30 years. With the refurbishment, the hotel also symbolizes and showcases our vision, as we continue to innovate and lead the future of travel,” said Mr. Alex Kyriakidis, president and managing director of Marriott International Middle East and Africa. 

Marriott International and Saudi Hotels and Resorts Company held a media conference last night in Riyadh to re-launch the hotel following a multi-million refurbishment.
The refurbished five-star property now features Marriot Hotels’ signature new innovations - the ‘Great Room’ - which is being rolled out across all hotels in the region. Mr. Muin Serhan, general manager of the Riyadh Marriott Hotel said, “The Great Room is stunning with its Arabian oasis atmosphere. Our guests can socialize, unwind, work, or dine in this up-scale space where then can enjoy the ambiance created by the spectacular light installations, Mashrabiya wooden screens, glass mosaics, water feature, and plush seating.” This is taking a “hotel room” to the next level! 

The grand lobby
Other features and amenities at the Riyadh Marriott Hotel include 418 newly-renovated rooms with modern furnishings, newly-designed contemporary executive lounge for dining, relaxing, and working, a ladies-only gym (yes!!!), and stunning new Royal Suite and exclusive crew lounge. They also have pumped up dining venues: Terrace Grill, a fine-dining steakhouse that won the MENA Travel Award and the only restaurant in Riyadh specializing in Angus beef and the Atrium Cafe for relaxed meals and drinks throughout the day. 

With this improvements in the Marriott, I can smell “staycation” in the air! It would not only be perfect for visitors and tourists in the Kingdom. It would also be the perfect venue to spend some quality time with family and friends in Riyadh. All that hard work in the city needs some relaxation and pampering time too. Riyadh Marriott Hotel with its iconic stance and amazing evolution might just be our next destination! ~ Sundrenched

Riyadh Marriott Hotel
Al Ma'ather Street, Al Wazarat District
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
T: +966-11-477-93-00
Twitter: @RiyadhMarriott

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