On my second to the last evening in Manila, my good friend N and her mom invited my mom and myself to dinner at Cafe Juanita. They came to pick us up at home then we all went to the newer Cafe Juanita in Barrio Kapitolyo in Pasig where we met up with another good friend, T.
My first impression upon entering the restaurant was being led into someone's boudoir. The main dining area at Cafe Juanita is eclectic with decorations from all over mixed all together: ikat used as curtains, different multi-colored crystal chandeliers, parasols used as lampshades, lace and silk draped over chairs, a cupboard filled with old mismatched china, antique tiles on the floor and on and on and on. The interiors are one-of-a-kind and full of the owner's character.
As we were all quite hungry, we flipped through their extensive menu of Filipino specialties and ordered several dishes to share. To start, we had calamares fritos (fried squid rings) and chicharon bulaklak (a certain part of the pig's intestines made deep-fried to a crisp) dipped in chili-spiked white vinegar.
For our main courses, we shared several Filipino classic dishes: kare kare (an oxtail and vegetable stew in a peanut-based sauce), ginataang sugpo sa gata (prawns cooked in coconut milk), bagnet (crispy pork belly with cilantro and tomatoes in a calamansi (tiny native lime) and fish sauce dressing and laing (taro leaves in coconut milk and chili). The food was delicious. It was a delight to eat in a restaurant that felt like a dinner party in someone's very colorful home. It would take a couple of days just to cook the variety of Filipino food on the menu at Cafe Juanita and the quality is so much better than home-cooked Filipino food that I would rather eat there any day than spend several hours making all that food at home. For dessert, we shared a tiny dessert sampler of ube (sweetened purple yam), leche flan (caramel milk custard), macapuno (coconut in syrup) and sweetened beans along with their superb cassava cake.
Cafe Juanita is the best Filipino food I've tasted in a long time. Their reputation is well-deserved and the praises I had heard about the restaurant are all true. The mother-daughter meal went really well and Filipino food was delicious. If you ever visit Manila and want a real taste of Filipino home-cooking, Cafe Juanita is where you should go. I promise you won't be disappointed.
19 West Capitol Drive, Baranggay Kapitolyo
Pasig City, Manila 1603
Telephone: +63 2 6320357
*Open everyday for lunch and dinner
Another branch at:
2 United Street (corner West Capitol drive)
Barrio Kapitolyo, Pasig, Manila
*Open everyday for lunch and dinner.