It’s challenging to keep food simple and straightforward, because any flaw becomes more evident. It is especially tricky with local cuisine, since Filipinos grow up enjoying home-cooked dishes, owning standards that are hard to meet, much less beat.
At Mongelica, a humble food joint in Ortigas, Pasig, owners Dodjie and Monica Violago and Hernan and Angel Lorenzo have kept their menu of mostly all-time Pinoy favorites honest and straight-up.
“Most pares places have like 100 items,” says Dodjie Violago. “Ours carries specific items only. But all are good, made of dishes you can eat quickly and at a friendly price.”
Mongelica, which occupies the former spot of Mexican taqueria Lo De Alberto (which moved right across), is like the typical street-side eatery that serves grub on the go. What sets it apart though, aside from its convenient location: its inviting and vast space (you’re not rubbing elbows with other guests); the servers are in proper uniforms; and the system is pretty organized (no yelling here).
The banner item is the beef pares, which takes on different forms: as fried rice; in mami; and as rice meal. Its flavors are prominent—subtly sweet but still beefy. The meat can be pretty lean, but it doesn’t diminish its mouthwatering appeal.
An order of beef bulalo is enough to feed a party of four—or cover about eight cups of rice, minimum. It’s generous in broth and comes with a tender shank, complete with the soft bone marrow, and the standard calamansi and patis condiment.
The lumpia togue is thick and stuffed to the brim with bean sprouts, while the chicharon bulaklak is fried to a lovely crisp.
Our favorite grilled items are also on the menu. A single order of the chicken isaw comes in three sticks, more than enough to pass as a bar chow as the stick is almost a foot long. It tastes as clean as it looks and, like the other grilled items, is cooked only upon order sans any basting sauce.
The pork BBQ liempo comes with rice and a garlicky, rich broth. The meat is tender and pulls apart easily, and the charred parts lend a crusty bite.
For dessert, there’s warm guinataan, which is loaded with bilo-bilo and sago, while the halo-halo is composed of just a few choice ingredients—leche flan, macapuno and bananas. It may not be the excessive kind, but it’s just as satisfying—perhaps even more.
On many occasions, we find ourselves craving for familiar flavors, devoid of creative executions and playful ingredients. We just want simple, traditional, downright delicious dishes that not only evoke nostalgia, but likewise give true satisfaction. For those times, we can rely on Mongelica. —CONTRIBUTED
Mongelica Pares and Mami Hub is at City Golf Plaza, Doña Julia Vargas Ave. Pasig. Call 09322147805.