This place makes such an impression on me that I eat there two times in two days.
Of course I’ve heard about Kanin Club. But what’s especially irksome is how long it took me to haul ass and eat there. Frankly, now that I’ve discovered how good it is, the threat of a much-expanded girth has become all too real. But if you’ve had a meal here, you know what I’m talking about.
Kanin Club has almost single-handedly built its reputation on one dish: crispy dinuguan (cover photo; P261). Practically an oxymoron, this much-maligned Filipino dish that’s been relegated to Fear Factor status, is a (soft) blood stew made of pig parts. This crispy dinuguan hews to the original in terms of consistency (saucy), the color (midnight black), and then skews off into its own tangent. The expected softness is replaced with an absolutely unexpected crunch that crashes through the mouth leaving in its wake a vinegary zing. At once crispy-chewy – is it chicharon? perhaps chicharon bulaklak? – these chunks of porky paradise are masticated into gritty, itty bits that dissolve on the tongue, their gloriously oily taste flooding through, lubricating the palate for another assault. It’s a dish that on first taste, I let loose a string of fluorescent expletives. My two friends glance at each other briefly before exploding into gales of laughter before taking in their own portions of porcine perfection.
- butterflied tilapia
Ian, who’s been to Kanin Club so many times he’s lost count, helps me navigate through the swath created by all the dishes we’ve ordered. “The tilapia goes very well with the green mango salad, the acidity of which echoes nicely with the sour tones of the sinangag na sinigang.” Butterflied and deep-fried, the tilapia (P246) comes to table curled in curious form. Dredged in flour and seasoned, it’s cooked so perfectly as to prevent any greasiness. Flesh so fresh, I use my hands to pick at the crispy bits, some of which are so crispy that they taste almost like crackers.
The sinangag na sinigang (P224), or, as Ian describes it, “sinigang risotto,” is a concept that I have difficulty wrapping my head around. But it works. Rice is moistened with a broth, its acidity present and pleasant while echoes of the traditional sinigang appear in the bits of meat, eggplant, string beans, and green finger chilis (sili pang sigang). The final touch is its crown of crunchy, deep-fried kangkong (swamp cabbage) providing that needed textural change. A marvelous example of a well-thought out dish.
- Ayala Land-UP TechnoHub, where Kanin Club’s latest branch is
Kanin Club has experienced phenomenal growth and popularity since its inception more than three years ago at Paseo de Sta. Rosa in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna. Situated within the complex where mountain bikers converge after several hours on the trails, Kanin Club became THE place to revivify. Owned by avid mountain biker Tony Cancio and his wife Mariela (also of CafÃ© Breton), they’re joined by Emily and Anthony Mendoza, the latter of whom is the king of Kanin Club’s kitchen. A second branch followed at Westgate Center in Alabang and then a third at the Ayala Land-UP TechnoHub in Quezon City. I would’ve appreciated it if they hadn’t jumped a city or two (hello Makati? Ortigas?) before landing on Commonwealth Avenue. It’s probably for the best though and for my hips as well.
- tapa; aligue rice in background
- bagoong rice
Kanin Club is all about rice, obviously. Aside from the aforementioned sinangag na sinigang, I try the bagoong rice (P149; sufficient) as well as the aligue rice (P149), which tastes more like java rice electrified with lots of atchuete oil. Most dishes are great for two people with admirable appetites. Nibblers need not apply. Other dishes worth mentioning are the tapa ni Anna (P187), which is cooked enough so that it’s true tapa and not beefsteak (bistek Tagalog).
It’s here that food is tremendous in quantity and quality married to winsome ambience that nods to the classiest of our Filipino heritage. Stained glass windows, hardwood chairs and tables, capiz accents, and paintings of provincial scenes with thankfully, nary a banana leaf or barong-clad waiter to be found. The service here, despite a merciless crowd, is quick and accommodating. After telling a waiter how much I’m enjoying my meal, he beams, “It’s the best, ma’am!” Then, when my Bin and I shamelessly order a maruya (another type of banana fritter) and turon for dessert, we’re told, “Baka masyadong marami na iyan para sa inyo, po.” It’s a well-trained server who has the interests of his customers in mind.
Most people who walk away from Kanin Club don’t leave enough room for dessert. That must be remedied immediately. My Bin and I split the turon (P135; extra scoop of ice cream, P53), a pair of fritters as thick as a child’s forearm and stuffed silly with a motley we Filipinos call halo-halo. Inside this lumpia wrapper are smears of ube jam, macapuno strips, red beans, and saba bananas garnished with a scoop of queso ice cream, its golden hue a sweet beacon. God. There goes another string of fluorescent expletives!
Paseo De Sta.Rosa
Sta. Rosa City, Laguna
G/F AyalaLand-UP TechnoHub,
Commonwealth Avenue, Brgy. U.P. Campus, QC