THE QUIET DINER

Stuffed chicken with mango ‘adobo’–this cozy, obscure place impresses

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Over the last fortnight this diner had highly contrasting dining experiences—one of great disappointment and the other,  quite pleasing.

Regrettably it is the bigger, much-publicized restaurant that fell short of our expectations, while a newbie little place provided us much dining pleasure.

Aracama, Filipino Cuisine

Unit C, The Fort Entertainment Center, Global City, Taguig; tel. 5196815

It is a pity that this is in a place formerly occupied by a good restaurant that consistently offered excellent food and service. Serving Filipino cuisine, Aracama is not in the same league as the previous occupants.

Dining area—Huge with mezzanine for bigger groups. Conservative, with minimal, décor. Tables are arranged for easy movement. The Bar is cordoned off from what possibly is a working area, with light-colored drapes.

Service—Nothing extraordinary. Not quick enough.

Staff—Courteous.

Suggested orders—As is now common with popular chefs who could be spreading themselves thin, the head of the cuisine was not there to look after their guests. Supervision or the new concept about Filipino food could have driven him to innovate, and this was evident more in the creative plating and garnishing.

However, this country is proud of its delicious, full-of-flavor cuisine. Not so with this one. Each dish, except for the European-influenced dips and the beef broth, was tasteless. The kitchen might have forgotten to season the meat and/or seafood before grilling/cooking. Try Daing na Pritong Tilapia (this diner noted the lack of daing taste), or inasal (what happened to the marinade?) with achara, or Pochero de Cebu, bland.

Service and government charges are included in the bill. Senior cards are honored.

Rating – One Spoon.

Villa Café

7427 Glory Bldg., Yakal St., San Antonio Village, Makati City; tel. 4782659

A comparatively small dining place, cozy and conducive to a quiet meal.

Two Kapampangan chefs have partnered to focus on Pampanga cuisine, mixed with international dishes.

Dining area—White interiors and chairs. Airy and bright. The collection of frames on the wall traces the lives of the two chefs, from childhood to the time they decided to not only be cooks but also chefs.

Service—One of the managing chefs is always around to welcome diners. The menu is given as soon as one gets seated. Orders are subsequently taken.

Staff—Knowledgeable and gracious, with the close supervision of the “boss.”

Suggested orders—The place offers a selection of dishes, from heirloom recipes of ancestral homes in Angeles, Pampanga, to Western specialties. Start with  Garlic Susu with lemongrass done with coriander butter in a puff pastry, or Quesong Puti-Stuffed Kalabasa Blossoms in light tomato sauce with organic greens and apple salad.

Choose the main course from the bestsellers—the unique Stuffed Chicken with Mango Adobo, the mango gives it an enticing flavor, sweetish but retaining its sour-salty character; Soft Lamb Shank Kaldereta, traditionally done with Parmesan  cheese, olives and capsicum. This must be among the best kaldereta in the city, with the intense  flavor of  olive oil which doesn’t overpower the rest of the ingredients. The meat falls  off the fork in its tenderness.

Match this with Gule Marangie (Kapampangan pinakbet) of kalabasa blossoms, okra, eggplant in bagoong, and your meal is truly delectable and pleasing.

Service and government taxes are added to the bill. Senior cards are honored.

Rating – 2 Spoons.

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