Hapag is ‘lutong bahay’ on a higher level
Piniritong Talong with Bagoong and Chicharon Toppings
“Wouldn’t a chef like you be insulted if his food is rated lutong-bahay?” we asked Julio Carlo Lara, who heads the kitchen of Hapag Heritage Cuisine in Quezon City.
“Not necessarily,” he replied.
A big family seated behind us in the restaurant was about to leave and its matriarch had just complimented the chef for a meal that reminded her of excellent home cooking.
For those legitimately trained in the culinary arts, to have one’s food appraised in that manner—“lutong bahay” as we say in Filipino—may not be the highest of compliments. And yet for Lara and his family, who opened Hapag in September last year with two other partners, the goal is to bring back wonderful food memories like hearty meals prepared by lola.
Hapag derives its offerings from the recipes of Lara’s paternal grandmother Angelina, a native of Malolos, Bulacan, and his Kapampangan mom, Joy. The menu also features Ilocano fare, a nod to Lara’s roots on his father’s side, from the region known for its exquisite bagnet (deep-fried pork) and the mashed grilled eggplant dish with the funny moniker, poqui-poqui.
Raised among home cooks who are well-versed in their respective region’s cooking styles and with parents who took their kids on road trips that turned into food adventures, Lara has become a custodian of sorts to the food he and sister Leah, who helps with the restaurant’s legal, PR and marketing needs, have enjoyed since childhood.
It’s an invaluable inheritance, so to speak, to have in one’s possession recipes from three strong regional points of Pinoy cuisine—Bulacan, Pampanga, Ilocos—which the Lara family is more than glad to share through Hapag’s food.
There are the bestsellers such as Lara’s signature dish Kalderetang Baka sa Gata, or beef in tomato stew made rich with coconut milk; Binagoongang Baboy sa Gata, pork chunks in shrimp paste and coconut milk; Kare-Kare, beef, ox tripe and veggies in peanut sauce; Salmon sa Miso and Bangus sa Bayabas, salmon and milkfish in soups flavored by natural ingredients.
According to Lara, all of Hapag’s dishes are MSG-free and use authentic, natural ingredients.
These are served fuss-free, plated on unembellished glossy white tableware, platters and pottery set against a restaurant interior of earth tones and wooden furniture.
The simplicity draws your attention to the rich aromas of the soups and sauces, or details like plump shrimps on a kilawin (marinated in vinegar, chilli, onion, pepper) appetizer as well as the deep golden glow of Bagnet Vigan, Lechon Kawali and the generous topping of crunchy pork bits on fried eggplant with shrimp paste.
And the melty cheese enveloping ensaymadita pastries like thick lava? It’s a real sight for sore eyes, not to mention fantastic pairing for coffee either as snack or meal-ender.
On this hapag-kainan, heritage cuisine is as warm and enriching as our memories of lola’s home cooking.
Hapag Heritage Cuisine is at 140 Maginhawa St., Sikatuna Village, Quezon City. Call 8139672, 3717602 for table reservations, and party tray orders for pickup and delivery. E-mail hapagheritagecuisine @gmail.com; follow @HapagHeritageCuisine on Facebook and Instagram.
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