El Pueblo has a place in the heart of the ’90s babies as many a party was held in Tequila Joe’s (where McDonald’s is now located), and first dates or breakups took place at Chateau 1771. Chateau’s Raclette now brings back memories of either romance or rejection, either heightening the good times or uplifting one from the bad times, all to the tune of Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic.”
El Pueblo died for a while, and it was quite sad, really. Tequila Joe’s is no longer around and Chateau moved to Greenbelt 5.
But hooray for resurrections, as Chateau has re-opened in the same place albeit with a new look and a slightly different menu.
The new version is called Cafe 1771. It is brighter, more relaxed than sophisticated, more homey than hip, more comfort food than haute cuisine. The main room is done in white and pink, with origami-looking art on the walls and high-back grandfather chairs in pink. To the left is a kind of ante room that is done in hues of brown and blue leaning towards turquoise, and beside that room is an area that can be closed for private functions. The ante room has a good collection of books that you can browse through if you decide to eat alone.
The concept reminds me very much of a Makati favorite, Apartment 1B in Salcedo Village, which capitalizes on homey-ness and comfort cuisine. Indeed, the seats are large enough and soft enough to sink into, there is free WiFi that makes the place appealing for meetings or solo lunches, and the food matches the furniture in terms of purpose: comfort!
The Lemon Chicken, a 1771 signature, remains to be the most popular dish – and rightly so. Bathed in a honey lemon sauce that has seeped into the meat, with crunchy skin that is the essence of sinfully delicious chicken, it is easy to order this plate again and again and again.
Another signature, the Raclette, is still on the menu (P330), but now with other equally appealing appetizers: Baked Eggplant Rolls which envelopes Pecorino cheese and is topped with Gruyere (although beware – on one visit the waiter insisted it was Pecorino and Gruyere, only for the kitchen to reveal upon our inquiry that they had used Emmenthal and cheddar!); and Tomato Cheese Fondue – Gruyere heaven!
The comfort foods take on a Filipino twist. The Sardine Pasta hits just the right amount of saltiness, punctuated by capers. The Osso Bucco caldereta brings back memories of lola’s caldereta, although make sure to remind the chef to make the meat tender as ever. But it’s a sinful version, with a good heaping of bulalo (beef marrow). (Tip: ask for extra garlic bread for P50 and spread the bulalo on it like jam – wicked!)
Some items are a little on the tame side. A reputed favorite, the Eggs Benedict, is a very muted version of what you would expect. The salmon burger is reminiscent instead of torta – although it might work for vegetarians. But the Cafe is on its way to achieving what it seems it set out to do: make you feel at home. The maitre d’ is especially attentive and makes sure that guests are having a good eat, if not a good time.
If you are at the Cafe for dinner, skip dessert and instead get a drink at The Wine Bar. It’s just upstairs. The Wine Bar has a very cosmopolitan feel, with chocolate hues and brick walls.
With Cafe 1771 and The Wine Bar, it’s good to see El Pueblo back although with a more mature feel. I guess El Pueblo has grown up with the generation that welcomed it. •
Cafe 1771. El Pueblo, ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center. Tel. 631-7340; 631-7339 (The Wine Bar). Mondays to Saturdays 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sundays 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Wine Bar, Mondays to Saturdays 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. www. chateaugroup.com. Reservations recommended. Major credit cards accepted. Cafe 1771 is wheelchair accessible; The Wine Bar is not. Basement parking available; no valet.