When I think of Quezon City I remember the QC Circle, the Maginhawa Street, and all the third-wave cafes that I’ve been obsessing of late. But I have not really been exploratory when it comes to food, hence I didn’t know about LoLa Café + Bar until Richie of The Pickiest Eater invited me. I found out that a new guy, is heading the kitchen and on that day he is giving us an exclusive first look (or taste if you may) of their new dishes; 16 of them. Yeah I know, I’m lucky. And today let me serve as your food connoisseur and give you a blow-by-blow review of these delectable foods fresh off the Chef Jon Mangibin’s kitchen.
LoLa Café takes up a space along Lozano Street, which used to be an old house. The place has been renovated they say, made bigger to accommodate more patrons. The thought given to decorate the place is ingenious. The walls and the furniture played with white, black, and gray tones. I was particularly taken by the accents used for adornment, particularly the mason jars that were used as lighting fixtures and as pots for some decorative plants. There are also picture frames on the walls and some shelves that hold the bottles of wine.
While photographing the place, some of my companions have started arriving. Once again, I shared this food adventure with some of my friends from the Kain Tulog Gang (KTG).
I learned that when there is a new person-in-charge in the kitchen, more often than not, the menu is going to be updated. It’s my first time to visit LoLa Café so I cannot make an old versus new assessment. From this experience, I can assure you that the new dishes are highly satisfactory. Let’s divide them into six parts and start with…
Think calamares tossed in salad, that’s what Chipirones (PHP 165 – USD 3.69) is. It is fried baby squid with pickled vegetables and tanglad (lemongrass) vinegar. As mentioned, they used baby squids, so small and tasty that I popped them in my mouth like popcorn.
I found my most favorite dish in the menu too early and if the reactions of my fellow foodies were any indication, I say I’m not alone in my opinion. If you ask me what is the one thing that I’d recommend from the menu, I’d tell you to order Wagyu Salpicao (PHP 320 – USD 7.17). You can never go wrong with Wagyu, in fact, I have never met a Wagyu in my life that I didn’t like. This meat is expensive for a reason; it is unbelievably tender and the flavor goes deep into the meat that the flavor essentially surges in your mouth. I kept eating it like I’m the only person in the room. I am a little ashamed to admit that I was the one who ate most of the plate that was supposed to be for sharing (teehee!). This should convince you already that Wagyu Salpicao shouldn’t be missing from your list of orders when you go to LoLa Café.
Then we were served something that I could only describe as double the trouble, Bone Marrow Sisig (PHP 275 – USD 6.16). It is made of pork jowl and garlic crumble, served with flat bread and kamias (bilimbi fruit) jam. It’s the only dish in the bunch that elicited the most number of wows in our group because I mean, look at it, not only is it beautiful, but it has bone marrow and sisig; a marriage of two of the best dishes there is! The dish is already good as it is but try it with kamias jam and you will know perfection right in your taste buds.
I have a problem with it though and it’s not related to my health concerns. I hated that the serving was too small, it was gone too soon. Too soon man, too soon!
Mix Romaine lettuce, bacon strips, bread crisp, and bagoong dressing together and you will come up with Grilled Caesar Salad (PHP 290 – USD 6.50). It was garnished with strips of parmesan cheese. I was all over this salad because of the cheese and I appreciate the fact that it was not grated as it is usually served.
That day I also discovered that you if combine charred alugbati lettuce hearts, roasted carrots, beets, kesong puti (white cheese), and toss it in balsamic vinaigrette, you will end up with one of the best salad there is, the Alugbati and Kesong Puti Salad (PHP 310 – USD 6.95). I was eyeing this salad the moment it was served. Unfortunately, by the time it reached our side of the table, it was only half a plate so I only got a small portion of it. That small portion though was enough to convince me that it is by far the finest salad that I’ve ever tasted in my life. I didn’t know kesong puti can make salad so much more interesting.
Bacon Belly Batchoy (PHP 320 – USD 7.17) is made with braised bacon slabs, ox tripe, sweet garlic broth, and soft-boiled egg. I love batchoy but honestly, this one didn’t pass to my liking and I am attributing it to the fact that it’s sweet. I prefer my batchoy to be on the salty side, which is not the case here. If you are into sweet broth though, you may find this noodle dish to your liking.
Pasta and Rice Bowl
If you want to be a little adventurous when it comes to pasta, I suggest that you give Spicy Tinapa Pasta (PHP 215 – USD 4.82) a chance. This pasta has smoked fish (tinapa), fresh tomato, and chili. The tinapa flavor is heavy not only in taste but also in aroma. I am not a fan of tinapa but I liked this pasta anyway because it doesn’t have that “umay” quality to it, which more often than not, is true with cream-based pasta.
LoLa Café also offers rice bowl dishes and one of them is Bagoong Rice with Roasted Pork Belly (PHP 295 – USD 6.61). It is made with salted dried shrimp, sweet roasted pork belly, binurong mangga at sibuyas (mango and onion), and chicharon. You read that right, chicharon and as you can see in the photo below, there’s a generous amount of it. The rice was so flavorful you can eat it alone, but of course, why eat it alone when there’s the equally savory pork belly to enjoy it with.
My vote though goes to the other rice bowl dish, Tinola Rice with Confit of Quarter Chicken (PHP 260 – USD 5.82). It has ginger confit chicken Maryland, lemongrass rice pilaf, charred green papaya, scallion-anchovy vinaigrette. The chicken and rice ratio was uneven; there were only three pieces of chicken legs. But the rice had such a piquant flavor that we easily finished the entire bowl even after all the chickens were gone.
I thought that after all that taste-bud explosions, we were ready for desserts; turns out we haven’t had the mains yet. They started us with the Roasted Belly Tocino (PHP 490 – USD 10.98), a dish of half-kilo slow-cooked liempo, anise glaze, and burong manga (fermented mango). By this time, I was already stuffed so I helped myself with just a small piece. I was happy to find how soft the meat is, so much that it didn’t take much of an effort slicing it even when we were just using a bread knife. The saccharine, juicy meat will have your eyes rolling backward. That’s how freakishly good it is.
The Garlic Buttermilk Fried Chicken (PHP 390 – $8.74) is cooked with calamansi buttermilk, ginger-scallion butter sauce, and chili garlic oil. I’m half-hearted about this; I liked that it wasn’t oily, but I find the chicken meat a bit firm.
Next on our plates were the Truffled Lengua (PHP 495 – USD 11), which has wild mushrooms, porcini broth, and garlic cream, and Gising Express (PHP 140 – USD 3.13), which has coconut milk broth, homemade bagoong, sigarilyas (winged beans), french beans, and finger chili. The Truffled Lengua was satisfactory but not as good as the Gising Express. I know they are two different dishes so I shouldn’t be comparing them. I’m just basing this on the fact that they were both made with creamy sauce. The Gising Express is spicy, just the way I liked it.
Of course, we still had room for desserts — you should always leave room for desserts! — and for this part of the meal we were served with two of their pies, Banoffee Pie (PHP 150 – USD 3.36) and Baguio Strawberries and Cream Pavlova. My favorite Banoffee pie is the one from Starbucks, hence it has become the benchmark of all banoffee pies that I’ve ever eaten in my life. In my assessment, Starbucks remains unbeatable, but I still find LoLa Café’s version very delightful.
The best dessert however, and this I’d choose over Starbucks banoffee pie, is the Baguio Strawberries and Cream Pavlova. It has bits of strawberries, it has meringue, it has strawberry syrup, it has cream, and it’s sprinkled with nuts. All these elements made for one hell of a dessert that served as the best ending to this one hell of a gastronomic adventure.
Hats off to Chef Mangibin for coming up with such a delectable selection of new dishes that I’m sure old and new patrons of Lola Café will enjoy.
LoLa Cafe + Bar offers not just great food but a perfect setting for those moments when you want to bond with loved ones or catch up with friends. So if you ever get a chance to be around Tomas Morato, head on to Lola Cafe and have fun trying their new offerings.
LoLa Cafe + Bar
99, Sct. Lozano St, Quezon City
Telephone no.: (02) 501-2620