A couple of years back, my Valle Verde badminton group had this idea of trekking to Pinatubo. The appointed day turned out to be very hot, and by the time we were done with our adventure, we were all famished for a hearty meal.
Being in Pampanga, I wanted to make no mistake in choosing a good dining place. We all ended up at the Nepo Mart area where we faced the many food choices at Everybody’s Café. We had the Kapampangan dinuguan, the palabok, the morcon, lumpia, pako salad and many others. That meal was so memorable that, after a few weeks, we were back with a much larger group just to experience that same meal all over again.
I am at our restaurant Wooden Spoon on Katipunan everyday. Without fail, I check and taste the dishes just to make sure everything is in order. It is for this reason that I crave for outside food near the resto for my lunch or an occasional dinner (which I always try to skip).
A resto in the Blue Ridge area called Red Roasters offers the best grilled tuna there is, along with chicken and fish fillet sandwiches. The pastas are also winners, particularly the pesto and the ones with tomato-based sauces. I love putting some of the chips that go with the sandwiches inside the bread to make each bite more crunchy (tel. 0917-7930735).
Another good find is Oini, a Kapampangan turo-turo run by the mother-and-daughter tandem of Marie and Rachael. Mom is the hardworking cook who does everything from marketing to cooking. I have been to the place twice this week and no matter how hard I try to stay away from rice, I am a miserable failure. The food cannot be had without it.
The must-try is the tapa. I used to think the tapa of San Andres market was the best; well, that tapa just got dethroned. Oini has delicious tapa, which it also sells by the kilo. Have it served with slices of tomatoes, then ask for itlog na pula, mash them and mix in the chopped tomatoes. This becomes the side salad to your meal.
Other must-try dishes include the tidtad or Kapampangan dinuguan, which is a different version but very good. The binagoongan—I love the simplicity of it. The kilayin is also good, looks similar to the dinuguan but tastes iba. This is marinated in garlic with some liver. Then there’s the batchoy.
The tindang damulag is tocinong kalabaw—an acquired taste. It is very tender meat with a touch of saltiness, sweetness and sourness to it. Have this with slices of finger sili dipped in suka and patis. It will make your nose perspire in satisfaction.
The rellenong alimasag, meanwhile, is boiled and flaked and stuffed in the crab shells.
Oini also serves thick batirol or tsokolate with suman bulagta. I enjoyed the thick hot chocolate made the traditional batirol way. The suman sauce needs a little working on, though.
There are many other items on the menu, like buro with mustasa and fried fish, pork barbecue, barbecue chicken. Marie comes up with new dishes everyday. I saw a hito with a sauce I couldn’t identify. Interesting! She also has taba ng talangka, which I strongly suggest you have on the side. This you use as ambula (or rice topping in Kapampangan) with a squeeze of kalamansi. Patay! (Maybe some Lipitor on the side?)
I saw pictures of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife dining in the place. I have no doubt they are also lovers of good old Pinoy cooking.
These days, I don’t have to drive all the way to Angeles to try authentic Kapampangan cooking.
Oini is at 63 Xavierville Avenue in Quezon City. From UP, take Katipunan, right on Xavierville Avenue. It will be on your right side. Call tel. 2382521, 0927-9317360 or 0947-5545502.
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