From adobo rice to ‘batchoy’–where to enjoy the best of Iloilo’s food | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

MODERN set-up at Robinsons Place Jaro’s food court PHOTOS BY RAOUL J. CHEE KEE

For foodies, a trip to the Visayas—or anywhere else, for that matter—is sure to involve some serious snacking.


In Iloilo, there’s a wide selection of crisp biscuits (galletas, bañadas, biscocho) and moist butterscotch squares sold in old bakeries, as well as batchoy (noodle soup) and kansi (sour beef broth flavored with batuan) best savored in the markets.


For breakfast one morning, we slurped hot batchoy at Netong’s in La Paz public market, then moved on to nearby Madge Café for freshly brewed coffee made with beans grown in Iloilo.


Heritage house


If you prefer more filling fare in a less chaotic setting, the Camiña Balay nga Bato (stone house) in the Arevalo district has a buffet set up in a 151-year-old heritage house. The azotea comedor, the main dining area on the second floor, was expanded several years ago and now seats big groups at long hardwood tables.


The place is chockfull of antiques from different eras; it feels like you’re dining in an elderly aunt’s home in the province. There’s a piano in the dining room and a hallway full of santo.


The food, arranged on tables grouped in the adjoining hallway, ranges from delicious bahay kubo vegetables cooked quickly and garlicky fresh lumpia (spring rolls) to adobo rice and Bino-ug nga Baboy (roast pork seasoned with salt).


Reservations are required (call 0921-7396491) at least two days in advance, for a minimum of 10 diners, for either lunch or dinner.


Robinsons Land Corp. (RLC) recently opened its 44th mall, Robinsons Place Jaro,  which caters to families and students who live and study nearby. It occupies part of what used to be the old De Paul College campus.


The three-level, full-service establishment has most of the anchor stores and facilities shoppers have come to expect from Robinsons like Robinsons Supermarket, Robinsons Department Store, Handyman, Japanese budget store Daiso and Robinsons Movieworld.


Homegrown brands


The mall’s leasing team led by Ma. Mercedes  Taleon took into account how Ilonggos patronize homegrown brands and chose their tenants accordingly. The result is a mix of national players (Greenwich, Jollibee, Mang Inasal) and strong local concepts.


Ang Kamalig, a Filipino restaurant known for crispy pata (deep-fried pork trotters) and KBL (a soupy dish of pigeon peas, pork and unripe jackfuit), occupies a prime spot next to the mall’s main entrance. Beside it is Wild Bamboo, a Japanese dining place serving sushi rolls, run by the same owners.


“Robinsons Place Jaro is in an area where many affluent families still live,” said Taleon, RLC’s vice president for lease. “The mall had to jibe with the location. We want it to be like Robinsons Magnolia in Quezon City that caters to the New Manila area.”


At the Food Gallery on the third floor of Robinsons Place Jaro, shoppers and moviegoers can choose among Chinese fare at Ocean City, rice meals with fresh oysters from Grillers Oysters, batchoy from Ted’s Oldtimer, Japanese rice bowls from Katsu-Don, Tex-Mex fare at Niños Burritos, baby back ribs from Pub Express, and piping hot meals from Ms. Hot Plate.


For dessert, they can head to Buon Gelato for a sweet and icy treat, Cinnamonde for pastries, Sweet Cravings for sliced cakes, or Zatazza Café for coffee, tea or smoothies.


The mall was designed by W.V. Coscolluela Architects & Associates. Warm wood laminate and recessed lighting at the Food Gallery give the space a modern yet inviting look. Booth-type seating, cushioned lounge chairs allow shoppers to recharge after a morning or afternoon spent doing errands.


Before leaving, head to the supermarket or department store to stock up on pasalubong.

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