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A Balikbayan’s guide to the best
Marge C. Enriquez
Pinoy restaurant
ANILA—As soon as a foreigner gets inside
a cab from the airport, the first thing he’ll
ask is where to eat good Filipino food. Top
of mind, any cab driver will bring him to the original
Aristocrat restaurant on Roxas Boulevard, Malate.
Nancy Reyes-Lumen, editor in chief of Cook Magazine and grand-
daughter of the Aristocrat founder, cites the Chicken Honey, the barbecues—whether the ribs or boneless chicken—and the juicy burgers
as the classics.
Since the Reyeses are a big clan, half of them are in the food and
restaurant business and have spun off their version of a Filipino restaurant.
Lumen prefers to bring a first-time visitor to the Philippines to
traditional restaurants.
“When he gets home and talks to Pinoys, they’ll
know the place he’s talking about—then there’s a
connection. These first-generation restaurants like
Aristocrat, Via Mare, etc. are time-tested. On his
second visit, he can go to other restos, the secondgeneration Pinoy places which are more modern
and offer styled dishes.”
Where would you take a foreign guest? It depends if he’s a backpacker or a principal from a
multinational. There are so many Filipino restaurants in Metro Manila alone.
Among the authentic restaurants, Abe (specializing in Kapampangan cuisine) and Via Mare
Oyster Bar, were at the top of the list.
Milky Way, another classic, and Café Juanita,
the charmingly bohemian restaurant in Pasig,
were also popular choices. The original Aristocrat and Kamayan restaurants
are also must destinations.
If awards are an indicator,
Sentro at Greenbelt 3 is recommended for its modern approach
to Filipino cuisine. For the sophisticated traveler, Philippe
Bartholomi, GM of Friday’s resort
in Boracay who started his career
as a chef, mentions Travel Café at
Greenbelt 5.
The food is presented in the
classic Western way without compromising the true Filipino flavors.
It also provides tourist information
of the Philippines.
For the trendy upmarket traveler, Bistro Filipino and Pepato are recommended. Undoubtedly, the quality of the food, service and presentation are five-star, but Pinoy food is best enjoyed in the classic way.
Generally, Filipino cuisine is not vegetarian-friendly. The traditional
vegetable dishes usually have bits of meat and seafood and are laden
with onions and garlic. If you’re a vegetarian, insist on dietary restrictions.
Sometimes, Filipinos tend to be slack when following instructions.
It pays to constantly remind the restaurants.
However, the restaurants in this article are known for their reliable
service. If you want vegetarian kare-kare (oxtail stew), pancit (native
noodles) or sinigang (tamarind broth), call the restaurant in advance and
tell them to eschew the meat stock in the sauces. Or go to restaurants
where cooking is ala minute.
Majority recommended the dampa or food shacks where you can
enjoy the fresh catch and have them cooked to your specifications, or
charming roadside eateries in nearby provinces. Through it all, the
experts chorused the best Filipino meal comes from the hearth.
If you’re passing through Baguio, book a meal with artiste-chef
Claude Tayag (book with Mary Anne at 0917-5359198) and enjoy
Pampango hospitality.
Restaurateur Conrad Calalang declares, “When a foreign wants to
taste Filipino food, I always tell them, ‘Come eat at my place.’ Home
cooking is the best!”
Connoisseurs’ favorites
Via Mare
Chefs Josephine Sincioco and Myrna Segismundo recommend Via
Mare for merienda fare.
“It’s a favorite reunion place of the balikbayans (visiting Filipino
expatriates). Sincioco and Calalang enjoy the seafood kare-kare or
native stew. (It’s not on the menu, so tell the waiter.) Sincioco likes
OCnIE SEC-B JUNE 20 with ads.ind9 9
the freshness of the peanut sauce in the kare-kare, the sizzling sisig
(meat cooked with souring ingredients) and the balut or duck egg’s
consommé, with subtle flavors of white wine and herbs.
Segismundo enjoys the fresh spring roll; pancit luglug (rice noodles
with shrimp sauce, topped with eggs, crushed ground pork rinds
and smoked fish); and puto bumbong (steamed purple rice cake with
salted eggs).
Tayag says, “You can have puto bumbong all year round. The oysters
from Capiz are very fresh and juicy.”
“The sisig is crunchy,” says Calalang. The meat is twice cooked,
hence, the fat is reduced.
Via Mare has branches in Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Rockwell Power
Plant Mall, and Greenbelt 3.
Abe is Kapampangan word for “friend” or “good company,” as well
as the nickname of Renaissance Man E. Aguilar Cruz. This restaurant
at Serendra has been packing them in.
Among the foreigners, the most popular dishes are the
St. Peter’s fish or plapla, served with
balubalo or shrimp
relish made
from fermented
rice wine and
mustard leaves;
prawns with crab
fat simmered in
olive oil and lemon; pork cooked in
shrimp paste and
seasoned with garlic and chilli; kamaru
or ricefield crickets,
sauteed with tomatoes and onions.
The sinigang na
Inside Ca
fé Juanit
or sour broth
milkfish belly is cooked
with ripe guava leaves instead of the
usual tamarind for the
sour taste. Cap the meal with fried banana spring roll with purple yam
and jackfruit.
“I like the way the rice is served in bamboos. The baby squid is
tender. The fried tilapia is simple, tasty and nicely presented. Instead
of flat fish on a plate, it is skewered, fried and curled nicely,” says
“The pako (seaweed salad) is the real deal, the way we make it at
home,” says Pampanga-based sculptor-foodie Tayag.
Café Juanita
An OB-gynecologist, Dr. Efren Vasquez lets go of his inner child
with this charming restaurant with a bohemian décor.
“It’s part bordello, part Moulin Rouge,” he says. Based on the Pampanga tradition of manual labor combined with instinct, the restaurant
has a loyal clientele. Vasquez understood the psychology of the senses
and applies them in the nuanced flavors of the meals.
There are innovative salads such as the sigarilyas (winged seguidillas
beans) salad, served with shrimp paste vinaigrette.
“The bagnet salad is served with sinful lechon kawali (fried pieces
of boiled pork), which is a nice combination of crispy and crunchy
textures,” says Segismundo.
Everybody raves over the kare-kare (oxtail stew). The gravy is creamy
yet light—unlike other restaurants’ versions which are too starchy—and
the oxtail and tripe are tender. “There’s just a hint of shrimp paste that
bursts in the tastebuds,” says Vasquez.
The vegetables are not boiled with the meat stuff to prevent sogginess. The mechado (beef brisket stew) consists of fine-grade beef that
easily crumbles as soon as you pitch in the fork.
“The peanut sauce of the kare-kare is flavorful, not chunky and
cloying that you get in other run-of-the-mill Pinoy restaurants,” says
Vegetarians can enjoy the coconut-based dishes, but inform the
kitchen of restrictions.
The desserts are light but lovely. The cassava cake is so soft that you
can taste the pulps. It uses the first extraction of the coconut cream
on top and is drizzled with cheese to balance the sweet flavors. It’s
always served warm.
The creamy coconut gelatin cleanses the palate to end the meal.
“The young coconut is so soft, it just passes through your throat,” says
Vasquez. Dessert goes with Senseo coffee.
Segismundo says the place reminds her of Serendipity in New York
with its ambiance of antiques and comfort food.
Café Juanita is located at 2 United St. cor. West Capitol Drive, Barrio
Kapitolyo, Pasig. (Inquirer.net)
arigold Commodities Corp. owner of
the Mama Sita’s
brand of sauces and marinades,
has launched the Lola Sita’s
Frozen Meat products in Northern California. Starting June 11,
Lola Sita’s will be available in
key Asian groceries and Filipino
stores all over Bay Area and
Sacramento. Lola Sita’s is made
from the same fine ingredients
and time-honored recipes that
are perfected in the kitchens
that prepare your favorite Mama
Sita’s Mixes and Sauces, and is
exclusively distributed in California by Chefs Corner Foods, based
in Hayward, CA.
“We are pleased and excited
to introduce the Lola Sita’s products to the Bay Area, and share
with the public our recipes of
uncompromising quality, authentic, original Pinoy taste that my
family has developed over the
generations.,” says Kim R. Lapus,
General Manager of Marigold
“We have developed these
products using only the best quality American meats, and Mama
Sita’s marinades originating only
from the Philippines; because of
this, Lola Sita’s products have
married the best of both worlds!
“We invite everyone to try and
taste our products and judge for
themselves what Lola Sita’s prod-
ucts have to offer.”
• Bistek Tagalog - Seasoned
beef slices that are good for
breakfast, lunch and dinner. A
new menu you will want to add
to your daily fare.
• Korean Pork and Beef Kalbi
- New recipes developed from our
Korean kitchens, our Kalbis are soft
and succulent! Just add a touch of
sesame oil and seeds, and enjoy
the authentic taste of Kalbi!
• Beef Tapa - Ready to pan fry
or grill, our tapa, marinated in soy
and garlic, is the perfect way to
quickly satisfy your hunger any
time of the day.
• Pork Tocino - Savor the
sweet, savory, and sticky delight
we call pork tocino with these
ready to cook, marinated slices.
• Pork Longanisa - Wake up
to the smell of our Kapampangan
style breakfast sausage.
• Chicken Tocino - Boneless
chicken, marinated in all the
goodness that give you the flavors of authentic tocino.
• Pork and Chicken BBQ
- Heirloom recipe of Manila’s Legendary Barbeque, and the family
that started it all— the Reyeses of
Aristocrat, our barbecue products
are a winner! Whether indoors or
outdoors, add authenticity and a
very Pinoy barbecue to any picnic
or gathering gathering with our
barbecue products.
(Advertising Supplement)
6/19/08 5:48:28 PM