Balay Dako

Our summer getaway usually happens during the Lenten season break. This is the only time that we are all free from school and work, and our schedules jive. When we were younger, we just stayed at home. But ever since I had kids, we have started making it a tradition to have our family outings. All for making good and happy memories!

Before we got to our final destination, we stopped by Tagaytay for lunch as we know it will be quite a while before we could check in and eat at our resort. I suggested Balay Dako because I had been reading many good reviews about it especially its breakfast buffet. But since we got around 11:00 in the morning, we just had to make do with their lunch fare, which does not disappoint.

Balay Dako is part of the chain of restaurants of Antonio’s so I was so sure that a visit would be terrific. It was a good thing we got there early enough because the restaurant began filling soon enough that it was a a frenzy by noon. Most vacationers and tourists trying to get out of Manila began pouring in Tagaytay by then. We were lucky enough to get a good table right in the middle of the room, which was designed for big groups or families. The whole place was bright and airy, and was not air-conditioned. Only the lovely Tagaytay breeze, passing through large windows, albeit covered by a net against flying insects, cooled the entire place. I have said this about a gazillion times throughout this blog but there is something to be said about old houses turned restaurants. There’s nothing but love for me for these places.

But as expected, what with it being a holiday, the service as a little slow. We patiently waited for everything as we can see that the hands of the staff were full.

We just ordered a package good for 10 persons (although we were 12, excluding the kids). I wished we had their specialty Sizzling Bulalo, but there’s always a next time. Everything was good.

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Fried lumpia
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Vegetable kare-kare
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Inihaw na liempo
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Sinigang na bangus
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Beef steak Tagalog
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Camaron Rebosado
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Chicken Inasal
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Avocado ice cream
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49B Heirloom Kitchen

Had a chance to dine at this cozy restaurant in Quezon City called 49B Heirloom Kitchen. The staff there said they only opened a couple of months ago. It is yet another modernized old house that serves mainly specialties passed down from generations to generations. They said that the upstairs dining room is lovelier but too bad we stayed in the ground floor owing to our boss who has difficulty climbing stairs. Well, I googled reviews of the restaurant afterwards and I was disappointed we didn’t go up!

Anyhow, the good food more than made up for the really long serving time. If we weren’t a big group, and had it not been for mobile Internet, I probably would have died of boredom. It was that slow. And it was the middle of the day in the middle of a work week! As I said, good thing their fare was delicious and made the wait well worth it. And the tab was not that bad, so a thumb up for them!

My fillet mignon, although admittedly the best I ever had, costs less than 400 pesos. A little tough but seasoned just right. Serving is also enough for lil ol’ me.

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And because I can’t have red wine in the middle of the day, paired it with grape shake instead. I like it that the fruit shakes are in tall glasses so as not to leave the diner bitin.

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We also shared a pot of sinigang na lechon, which was perfectly sour, tart and tangy. The meat, first roasted, and the chunks later simmered in sinigang broth and vegetables, was oh so tender.

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What my colleagues had:

Paella negra, which I unfortunately didn’t get to sample. Darn!

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Kare-kare

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Pork chop

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Dill-encrusted salmon for the hubby

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And something I am not totally crazy about, lengua.

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Balay Negrense

Okay, I’ve been wanting to visit the famed ancestral houses that line up the streets of Silay City in the province of Negros Occidental. I find ancestral houses really fascinating if properly maintained. They speak so much of lives well lived, and people like me who are able to go through them are given glimpses of their families’ rich history. It is like reading my favorite novel, only it has come to life.

During my last trip to the province, I only got to visit the Ruins in Talisay City. And on this trip, although I wanted to do the rounds for most of the houses in Silay, I was fortunate to go only to one – the Balay Negrense, or the home of Don Victor Fernandez Gaston.

My photos here are not of top quality as I was only using an iPhone. I had not done justice to the ethereal beauty of the house. It was overcast on the day of our visit, and if anything, the weather made it all…spooky, if you will, and kind of romantic. The Gaston family is one of the pioneers of the sugar industry in Negros, and I think, the Philippines. Their home speaks of their affluence, and one could almost feel the vibrant activity going on when it was full of children, adults, helpers and probably those who are in the business with the patriarch. I could imagine it on full throttle during its heydays.

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Next time, I vow to visit the other houses, even if I have to extend my stay.

Limbaga 77

Our family dined at a newly opened restaurant at the Tomas Morato area, in yet another restyled/refurbished old family home. It is found on No. 77 Scout Limbaga St., hence the name Limbaga 77. It’s hard to miss, especially at night, with its bright facade and conspicuous name.

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But among the last few ones I went to (Victorino’s, Adarna Food and Culture and Lola Cafe), its interior is one of my favorites. It has two floors, and both had their own bars and restrooms. As it is new, the place is definitely eye candy. I especially liked this statement staircase, with its steel and wooden railings.

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And yet again, it has the same take on modernized Filipino food. Did not get to choose any of the food, though. Not complaining, but most of those we had were not my cup of tea. So I would say that everything was average and just okay, and that I had better.

House salad. The prawns were big and generous so that’s a total plus for me. However, this one had bananas. Whoever thought of putting bananas there? It was weird.

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Poqui-poqui rolls. The Ilocano classic dish of eggplant and egg but wrapped in lumpia wrapper and fried.

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Bangus flakes in mustard leaves. This is good and healthy. One of the better meals on their menu.

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Binusog na pusit. Literally, a squid with its belly full. Now, this one is a winner! Perfectly roasted with pesto on top, and just the right sweetness and tartness of the dipping.

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Pochero. Didn’t get to taste this one, but doesn’t hold much for me anyway.

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I forgot to take a photo of the herb fried chicken. Mischa just took a few bites but I really can’t tell if she didn’t like it or she was too busy running around to enjoy it. Also the sinigang na salmon of the hubby.

If I had my way, there would be crispy pata or lechon kawali on the table that night. Then I would have totally enjoyed the meal. I got to content myself that I was with family. Maybe I need a second round for another verdict?

Victorino’s

Lunch yesterday was a lovely affair in Quezon City again. This time, I was brought to another re-purposed, but well-light and spacious ancestral house on Scout Rallos specializing in, but is not limited to, Ilocano fare. The front part, which faces the street is covered entirely in glass, thus, letting natural sunlight in.

As soon as you walk in, you will be greeted by an array of native and some handcrafted items, made I suppose, by Ilocanos. There were several tables for intimate groups, and long ones, for big groups, such as ours. Large antique cabinets were also on display all around the dining area. I like it that the pieces do not look or feel too old, but seemed more well-kept and maintained to sport an old-meets-new look. Everything feels warm, modern and comfortable.

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The restaurant also has a bakery filled with the famed Heny Sison’s goodies of yummy cakes and breads, bottled sardines and spread, taro chips, sukang Iloko, and other goodies.

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Love the lavatory area, too.

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Okay, so I do not have an ounce of Ilocano blood (although you never know!), and I might probably not a good judge whether the taste of the food is authentic. But everything we ordered made my mouth water. And I think some of the restaurant’s offerings are not entirely Ilocano in nature, rather more Filipino.

This is their local miki. It kinda reminds me of the molo noodles of Iloilo. Nice and hot, perfect as starter.

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The classic pinakbet. I was a little afraid that this would taste really bitter as Ilocanos are wont to cook, but I was glad my taste buds could take it.

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Poqui-poqui. I love eggplants period.

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Squid adobo. No, the picture is not deceiving you. It is really darker than usual. Still good, though.

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Beef caldereta. I almost sighed indecently when I tasted this, it was sooo good, never mind that it has liver (which I absolutely detest) sauce. The beef chunks were so tender with every bite oozing with rice tomato sauce. I got a little bitin though because we were sharing all the food, and the serving plate was not able to return to its rightful owner (me) anymore. Huhu.

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Chicken galantina. Hmmm, normal.

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Bagnet for the win! I could have this everyday, but of course, I might be chopping several years off my life, and I still have two kids to raise. Crisp to perfection, and the tomato and bagoong just has the right tang and saltiness.

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Beef steak or bistek in Tagalog. A little too sour for me.

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Salmon sandwich for one of my colleagues who was recently diagnosed with diabetes, and is watching her sugar and carbs intake. Poor friend.

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I didn’t get to take photos of the binagoongan and fish sinigang. The former was quite good but the bagoong was a bit on the sweet side (I like mine salty and a little spicy).

After all that burp-inducing goodness, we just had to have dessert. And so we feasted on red velvet cake, almond sans rival, lemon torte and mango chocolate torte.

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Food is truly love. And can you tell, I absolutely adored this place? Will have to bring my family here.

Lola Cafe and Bar

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Tucked away in the quieter streets behind Tomas Morato is another ancestral house-turned-restaurant called Lola Cafe and Bar. Although it screams old house, I like it that the owners put in so much modern vibe that it doesn’t feel moldy, dusty or ancient. It is more homey, kind of like a maiden aunt’s joint. Downstairs is a floor to ceiling bar, and as you go along to the main restaurant upstairs, the walls were covered with framed inspirational quotes and snapshots of famous landmarks. I love the mason jars covered lights and plants scattered all around!

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I was with more than a dozen colleagues during this trip, and we were running late for lunch after attending an official business. Our tummies were grumbling by this time. As there were several handfuls of us, I was a little afraid that we would have to wait a bit longer since most restaurants like these are more prepared for their dinner patrons than lunch customers. But no, it was a happy surprise that it took only a little time to serve our food (and we had quite a variety at that). Still, everything looked and tasted superb, not like it was done in a hurry. So two thumbs up for that great service!

Now, for the food. The selection was mostly Filipino fare, which reminded me of Adarna restaurant and Romulo Cafe. I didn’t get to take photos of all our orders, much less taste everything. For those that I did, I couldn’t find any major complaints to.

My personal orders were mushroom soup and spicy tinapa pasta.

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The soup was warm and thick, and it looked like it didn’t come from a can. The serving was tiny though. The pasta was good enough but it lacked some salty kick that tinapas should have.

Other orders were:

Garden salad

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Very tasty tofu squares in a saucy sauce. I loved this! The tofu was crispy and firm, and not at all soggy.

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Tenderloin skewers that looked yummy.

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Beef binagoongan. This was tender and juicy, however, the bagoong did not seem to seep and mix well with the beef. They are better off using pork.

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Kimchi caldereta and kare-kare

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Eggs Benedict that a friend asked to substitute rice for the traditional muffins. It was really sacrilege. We think the chef had a heart attack when told of this peculiar request. Lol.

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Balsamic chicken. Kind of what I make here at home with worcestershire sauce.

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I also saw orders of gambas, seafood stew, another variation of salad, and pumpkin soup. All in all, I enjoyed our visit here. I hope the food tastes as good when I was not this famished.

Adarna Food and Culture

As we continue to celebrate the little girl’s birthday the past weekend, Her Ninong treated us to dinner at Adarna Food and Culture, another one of those turn of the century houses-turned-restaurant. Tucked away on Kalayaan Avenue in Quezon City, it is one of the most frequented joints in the area, but I am glad there were few patrons that Saturday night we chose to dine there.

I love antique houses! It always makes me think and remember fondly my own childhood spent at my grandparents’ house in a small town in Batangas. If I close my eyes long enough, I would almost feel the hagod of my Lola‘s hand on my back and her kisses atop my head. And then my lolo would come in fresh from the sabungan carrying my favorite balot. Sigh! Now I miss them.

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There was even a small sari-sari store that my grandparents owned! Okay, now being bitten by heavy nostalgia.

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Mischa was totally fascinated.

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I thought that the courtyard would have looked better in the morning when it would be hit by rays of sunshine. I can imagine myself curled up under a tree with a good book and a glass of cold calamansi juice.

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So back to the present, the restaurant serves really good comfort food that are regional specialties all over the Philippines. Offerings were culled from old family recipes.

Pancit molo

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Piassok, which was beef chunks stewed in coconut cream. Yum!

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Pork humba

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Rellenong bangus, which was my favorite during this meal. I don’t normally go for milkfish but this version is divine!

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Ampalaya with lechon meat

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For dessert, we had:

Peanut rolls

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Kesong puti with langka reminiscent of turon

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The classic halo-halo

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Service was a little slow. And the waiter forgot to take down our order of morcon. But the meal and the ambiance was good in all. After all, our family was complete, what more could we ask for?

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