Red Ribbon opened in Vallejo this summer to add to the growing roster of Filipino chains that have zerod in on Vallejo for US expansion. While famous for its mango cake and orange-colored noodles (pancit palabok), I found more appeal in a couple other offerings.
First the things I didnt like
Ensaimada, $1.49 a soft and fluffy roll in the genre of slightly sweetened Asian breads, spread with a thick layer of cold margarine and sprinkled with sugar. While tender and puffy, it tastes stale with a metallic harshness that seems like it was baked long ago and kept on life support with artificial preservatives.
Mango cake roll, $11.99 the small version of the signature mango cake in jelly roll format (serves 8). The intensity of the mango flavor from the bits and pieces encased in the butter cream-like substance is impressive. Likewise the airy and delicate sponge cake base is very good. However, butter cream is a misnomer as few, if any, molecules of either butter or cream are incorporated in the artificial tasting greasy frosting. And, who knows what the sweet but otherwise tasteless stark white whipped cream pretender is made of? The whole thing leaves an unpleasant plastic-y fake-o coating on the palate.
Empanada, $1.67 deep-fried turnover with a flakey crust shot through with transfats and filled with chicken stew. The shell is greasy and heavy and even though browned and seemingly fully cooked has a raw floury taste. The braised chunks of chicken with veggies are quite delicious and finely seasoned. If the chicken werent over-tenderized into dull pabulum, Id be tempted to try this again just for the filling and dump the crust.
Ube shake, $3.29 icy purple shake of taro with tapioca pearl. Mildly flavored and oversweetened, the base drink has little to recommend it. The tapioca balls are too soft and mushy instead of being chewy and resilient.
Now, for the things worth eating
Pancit palabok, $3.79 cellophane noodles in an orange-colored shrimp-flavored sauce topped with ground pork rinds, shredded pork, bits of fish, green onions, and wedges of hard-boiled egg. This doesnt look like much, a smallish serving on an oval plastic toss-away tray. But theres so much flavor and grease packed into each bite, you really cant eat the whole thing. Yet, I liked the stuff, even though I was worried about my cholestrol count. One of my colleagues had one taste of mine, liked it, and ordered it for herself another time. When confronted with her own serving, she ended up hating it, mostly for the greasy pork cracklings, and threw it away, saying it was one of the worst things shed ever ordered. So your mileage may vary.
Arrozcaldo, $3.99 rice congee porridge with fine threads of chicken, green onions, minced shitake mushroom, slices of egg, and toasted garlic bits. This is a thicker, creamier style than Jollibees, but not as deeply chicken-y in flavor. The mushrooms are a nice touch and there's a lighter hand with the garlic garnish.
Butter cake, $2.79 small loaf cake, a bit heavier than chiffon cake but lighter than pound cake. Nice and eggy with bit of butter and faint pineapple flavor and a spongy almost rubbery texture. This was a universal hit for the morning coffee break.
Red Ribbon Bakeshop
(inside Seafood City Supermarket)
3495 Sonoma Blvd.
Other Northern California locations San Bruno, Daly City, San Jose, and Newark.