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THE QUIET DINER

Crusty bread with stewed lamb, pan-grilled mushroom rice–Cibo has kept its quality

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The Molito Mall in Alabang, Muntinlupa, is fast teeming with restaurants offering different cuisines. In the highly populous Cubao, Quezon City, a part of a long-existing Italian restaurant chain has remained extremely popular.

Café Juanita

Molino Lifestyle Bldg., Madrigal Ave., corner Alabang-Zapote Road, Muntinlupa City. Mobile 0917-3456568

This restaurant initially gained its clientele in Pasig, with its very native ambiance and traditional Filipino food. Recently, chef and staff,  pots and pans, other service people and décor have invaded the Alabang area.

It used to be that we were quite turned off by the small, dark dining area of the original café in Pasig. It was decorated with very vintage personal items (presumably of the owner), mostly Spanish mantillas which evidently had seen many better years.

Therefore, a visit to the Alabang branch became almost a must and a challenge to satisfy our curiosity.

Dining area—This is quite a departure from the original one in Pasig. The place is along the walkway of one of the new buildings in Molito. By the entrance are planters with fresh greenery, more of which are spread out inside. This creates a freshness we didn’t feel in the Pasig interiors.

While the décor still reflects the owner’s preference for native vintage stuff, the ambiance, this time, is lighter, albeit pleasant—a parasol from southern Philippines, a flamenco skirt, bird cages, a miniature church, vintage frames and a bar with stained glass. Up on the “pretend” second floor is a balconaje.

Service—A greeting is extended as a diner enters. Early diners will have their choice of table.

Staff—Polite and alert. The women are in white tops with purple overblouse, while the men have wrap-around apron.

Suggested orders—This is where one discovers flaws, but considering the place is on soft opening, we can cut it some slack. The Crispy Hito with Green Mango Salad was too sour. Perhaps they could add a bit of fish sauce or a pinch of salt. The Beef Kare-Kare has three small pieces per order, and goes with bagoong, for which one can ask for extra scoop but we suspect peanut butter is used. The Bagnet Salad is not up to our expectations. The skin is not crispy at all, not even brown enough. The tomato in the salad, in a separate little saucer, is sliced in wedges; it would have been better if cut into small cubes.

The dessert, Sticky Toffee, is a good offering—a slice of what is actually a bread pudding served with a dollop of ice cream.

All are for sharing, but portions are small for a big eater.

Service charge and government taxes are included in the bill. They honor senior cards.

Rating *

Cibo

4/L, Gateway, Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City. Mobile 913CIBO.

This is a member of a very successful and popular chain owned by one of the country’s most innovative and successful chefs. Through the years, the quality of food and efficient service have been maintained.

Dining area—Its signature tangerine, gray and brown and the circles are a welcoming sight for hungry diners craving for  Italian offerings.

There is enough space between tables  and the noise from outside does not actually filter in.

Service—Very efficient and fast.

Staff—Gracious and knowledgeable.

Suggested orders—The menu  is extensive: Antipasti (dips), Bruschetta (crusty bread), Panini (sandwiches), Pizzas and Mains. One needs to examine the list very carefully and select what challenges the appetite. For a dip, try the Pate de Figato, uniquely done with apple and pear sauce. Lamb lovers will enjoy the Bruschetta of Angello Stufato—rustic crusty bread with stewed lamb, Bel Passe, red pepper and pine nuts.

Or try a panini, a vegetarian variant of whole wheat bread with veggies, onions and pesto.

Go for any of the pizzas and pastas with toppings ranging from meat, seafood to fruits.

Cibo will soon introduce its Envelop Pizza, its version of the Calzone, basically with Pepperoni.

Maybe get one of the Piatti di Marghi or Margarita’s Mains (plated meals), choosing perhaps the Filleto di Pesce, Pan-grilled Mushroom Rice with sauce. Whatever craving one may have for Italian favorites, including traditional sweets, Cibo has it.

Government and usual services charges are added to the bill. Senior cards are honored.

Rating **


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