Saturday, July 24, 2010

CAFE VIA MARE

My first taste of Filipino food that week was lunch at Cafe Via Mare in Rockwell.  No trip back home would ever be complete without a visit to Via Mare for Filipino classic dishes done simply.  It's a good place to start to have a taste of local cuisine.  Since it's a favorite of many, it is often packed for lunch and merienda (afternoon snack) but because they are open all day long, it's easy to drop in anytime to have a meal.  We arrived at lunchtime and as the restaurant was packed, we were kindly accommodated next door at the Via Mare Oyster bar for a larger table in more quiet surroundings. 

I already knew what I was going to have plus owner Glenda Barretto had asked the chef to prepare a few special dishes for us to try - the chicken tinola flan and pinais.  We all started with a bowl of the flan which is a modern version of the classic dish - tinola.  Instead of the usual ginger-flavored chicken soup, we were given a small bowl of flan infused with the rich flavor of the chicken soup - a very interesting and delicious take on the original.  Along with that, we shared half a dozen local baked oysters which the Via Mare oyster bar is known for.

Next came, all the main courses - there were three orders of the typical Filipino breakfast of sinangag - garlic-fried rice and an egg - usually scrambled or fried served with a choice of tapa (dry-cured beef strips), tocino (marinated pork) or longaniza (local pork sausage).  I had the binagoongan, crispy pork belly served with bagoong - the local fermented shrimp paste and a few slices of sour green mango.  On the same plate is a small portion of pinakbet - a local ratatouille of okra, bitter melon, squash and eggplant and steamed rice.  We all shared the other dish that Glenda had sent out to us - the Pinais which is shredded crab meat and ubod (palm hearts) in coconut milk that are stuffed into the crab shell and steamed wrapped in a banana leaf - another Filipino delicacy that is not available in most restaurants.
For dessert, we shared three: two of which have made Via Mare famous - bibingka, a sweet rice cake flavored with salted duck egg and topped with shredded coconut and the puto bumbong - an ube (purple yam) rice cake served with crushed palm sugar and shredded coconut as well.  Both are cooked in classic terra-cotta pots over charcoal and are usually only found at special places or outside churches in December as an early breakfast after the misa de gallo (pre-dawn masses held during the twelve days of Christmas).  The third was a sampler of three cold Filipino dessert classics served with crushed ice - ginumis - tapioca in palm sugar syrup, maiz con hielo - sweet creamed corn with milk and my favorite,  halo-halomeaning mix-mix, which is a what it is, a many-colored and flavored mix of different boiled sweets, from beans (mung, chickpeas, red beans),  coconut, sago (tapioca) to fruit, kaong (sugar-palm fruit) and caramelized bananas served with milk.  As always, biting into the bibingka and puto bumbong really brought me back home and all the local flavors I have missed while living abroad.  It was good to be back.
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Ground Floor, Rockwell Center
Makati
Telephone: +63 2 898 1305
Open daily, all-day for lunch, merienda and dinner
*other branches in Metro Manila

2 comments:

[pinkc00kies] said...

i miss their guinataang halo halo :(

Gourmet Traveller said...

Hi PinkCookies,

So do I. My favorites are the bibingka and halo-halo.

Thanks for checking in.

G.T.