Thursday, March 9, 2017

Something about Old Houses Turned Into Restaurants in Metro Manila

Will Fly for Food
I love eating in posh, modern restaurants (who doesn't) but there is definitely something else when you eat in old houses turned into restaurants in Metro Manila. First thing is, you always begin to "feel" the history of the place once you step inside. You try to imagine how the former residents had lived there.

Last night we were treated to dinner at Bagoong Club on Dr. Lazcano Street in Diliman, Quezon City, just a few minutes from Tomas Morato. Outside it looked very much like any old house in the area except that it announced a curious sounding resto business (although the facade didn't look that exciting. See image on the left).

Some eateries tickle your appetite at first glance even a mile away. With Bagoong Club, my very first thought was, "A house?"

I mean, from afar it wasn't impressive. But up-close, after parking the car and alighting, you'd see how it actually looks good at night with the lighting effect and a homey welcome at the entrance. You'd feel you were specially invited as a guest for dinner at a home where the mom did the cooking. And traditional moms cooked awesome traditional food dishes.

Yet, hearing the resto for the first time, I wondered whether the chow there would be a nice dining experience---would we eat nothing but bagoong food dishes? That would be boring. But at the same time, something in the nook and cranny of your brain told you the menu would probably be something very innovative and creative. I mean, just look at the interior of the reception.
How the place looked at night.
Image from Jay Jay Lucas

They made a cozy reception area of the living room with framed pictures all over the walls boasting of celebrities who have dined there---I saw pics of President Duterte, the late German Moreno, Pauline Luna, Cory Quirino (I think), and many others. The living room set reminded me of my lola's house in Bulusan and the blend of various wood planks against the concrete walls created a soft, homey ambiance.

Hmm, the place was impressive after all. Too bad I and my wife forgot to bring our cams!

Now, for the menu. Have you ever heard of "Puro Kababuyan"? That's how they named one portion of their pork menu. It easily caught our attention and soon found the rest of the menu amusing. But sometimes, that's the problem with amusing menus---it's hard to decide what to experiment on. It was both exciting and risky. What if it turned out bad? So we tried those that still sounded somewhat traditional---Crunchy Dinuguan, Bulalong Mungo, Crunchy Insalada (the best), Kare-Kare, Okoy, and of course, Binagoongan Rice.

Tsinoy Foodies
Strips of chilled and crunchy turnips were served as appetizers with interesting selections of bagoong in two flavors and shades. I used to buy something like this in the streets of La Loma when I was in grade school, but his was definitely a leveled up, improved, posher version. And appetize my palate, it did!

I loved how the Okoy was presented like a fountain on freeze mode, the long, crunchy strips of camote (with crunchy shrimps in between) serving as "shooting water." The concocted vinegar dip that came with it was "ulam" enough with rice. You can see tiny herb particles floating that enriched the flavor better.

I loved everything, but what we ate at KAMBAK in Sto. Tomas, La Union was still something else.

Anyway, after dinner, I tried to look around Bagoong Club. What looked like its former side garage was turned into an elegant dining area. Looking for the men's restroom, I was led upstairs where I took a peek at some rooms with their doors slightly opened, but it was too dark inside to see anything. They were probably offices. Then I imagined how they had been used as bedrooms by their former occupants. At the same time, I remembered how people say old houses hide some spooky mysteries in them. All old houses look strange and mysterious and can easily stimulate the naughty thoughts of a curious mind.

By the way, there are other old houses in Metro Manila which have been tuned into restaurants. You shouldn't miss La Cocina de Tita Moning on San Rafael Street in San Miguel, Manila near Malacanang and the office I used to work in. Casa Roces is another one in the same vicinity, at the corner of JP Laurel and Aguado. Cafe Ysabel in San Juan. And Ninyo Fusion Cuisine & Wine Lounge on Esteban Abada Street, Loyola Heights in Quezon City. Just to name a few.

If you're planning to tour Metro Manila and want good hotel and accommodation deals with the best prices plus booking, you may choose to get some help online.

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