Monday, November 30, 2009

the treasure chest next door

When I go to Manila, I stay at my progenitors' residence in Quezon City. When we were younger, my siblings and I thought that it was the absolute boondocks. It was too far from school, from restaurants and grocery stores, from playmates' and classmates' houses. Nobody wanted to come visit us. It was considered "the outskirts" then.

Nowadays, I have a real appreciation for our house's location. I never noticed before-- probably because my mother was a little paranoid and would not let us explore the neighborhood-- but everything, and I mean everything, is literally a few minutes' walk away.

We have grocery stores, pharmacies, dentists, beauty salons, a diagnostic clinic, and a whole slew of restaurants that are pretty durn good.

Case in point: Adarna Food & Culture. I had been noticing this restaurant popping up in different blogs for some months now. I usually take note of the address-- Kalayaan Avenue-- and think, hey, that's practically next door. And then I forget about it.

Note to self: Must make a list of restaurants to try whenever I go to Manila.

Anyway, mom and I went. It was very nice.

It's a bit like Cafe Juanita, but much less cluttered and chaotic. I think, though, that they were going for authentic, and not eclectic. Very successfully, I may add.

Parking and wifi are free. So I parked my butt and went online to check my email while mom was being entertained by the great staff. They showed her their mini museum, which I missed. Next time.

The seating is roomy but cozy. We were indoors in the AC area. The courtyard outdoors which serves as the smoking area is also delightful.

It's hard to top Anton Diaz's review of this restaurant. Since there were only two of us, we couldn't order a lot of stuff. We started with:

Sigarillas or sigarilyas are winged beans. Mom had never had them before. I really, really liked this dish. The veggies were crunchy and fresh, and the dressing was mild but flavorful. The pork bits on top pushed it over the edge to "must-order-everytime" status.

Let me just say that this is the hands-down best beef rendang I had ever tasted. Well, OK, it's not called that, but that's what it looked and tasted like. It has to be eaten fast, though. When it got cold, the meat became tough and the sauce started to separate.

This matched the beef perfectly. The single serving was more than enough for the two of us. Actually, I noticed that the serving sizes are quite generous. I would bring a bunch or relatives and friends next time so that we can try more dishes.

The crabmeat omelet was so-so. Maybe the quezo de bola and kesong puti variation would be better, with hot pan de sal. Oh dear, I just made my own mouth water, writing that.

(Quezo de bola = edam cheese. Kesong puti = soft white cheese made from carabao milk. Carabao = water buffalo subspecies, local beast of burden. Pan de sal = local bread, usually eaten for breakfast or afternoon snacks, characterised by very fine crumbs which get all over your clothes.)

Verdict: I would recommend this place to anyone who wants to eat hot, hearty, authentic Filipino food, while absorbing Pinoy vintage pop culture. Like its name says, they offer food AND culture. Adarna is a rare treasure chest and I am ecstatic that it's practically next door. Hot Tuna, you must, must, must try this restaurant. We will go with you-- just tell us when.

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