Meet Petra, Meet Pilar

It’s called a carinderia but this isn’t your roadside eatery.

Every foodie, at one time or another, flirts with the idea of opening his/her own restaurant. Reality temporarily suspended, fantasies of fantastic food whirl in the mind, the dream restaurant a receptacle for the foodie’s edible wish list. In time however, the realness of it all – the grim truth of opening – not to mention — sustaining a restaurant frightens away all …

… except for the very courageous foodie, the daunting realities of the task serving as fuel in the journey towards a dream come true.

This is what happened to Katrina Ponce-Enrile, the quintessential businesswoman (President and CEO of the JAKA Group of Companies) but at her core, a global foodie who honors and remembers the food of her youth in her latest endeavor, Petra & Pilar. Petra is the Ponce-Enrile matriarch and Pilar the Castañer matriarch who introduced Katrina to the wonders of properly prepared Spanish degustacions.

here’s where you order your food

Katrina calls the eatery a carinderia, categorizing it a few notches higher than a “turo-turo.” “I’m glad to finally have this place,” she tells me. “It’s really just home-style food, dishes I grew up with, and just like in a carinderia, you have to go up to the counter and order what you want.”

Filipino food
clockwise from top: sweet and sour fish, lengua, binagoongan

The food here is welcoming in its abundance, comforting in its familiarity: inihaw na liempo (grilled pork belly), binagoongan (pork cooked with bagoong), lengua estofado (ox tongue stew), and sweet and sour fish. Another time it might be adobo sa puti, a “white” adobo sans soy sauce; embutidong bangus (steamed fish roll), bistek Tagalog (beef slices marinated in soy sauce), halaan (clam soup), ensaladang ampalaya (bittermelon salad), and rellenong alimasag (seasoned crabmeat stuffed in their shells). And like any carinderia, food is served on the oval-shaped, off-white melamine tableware that quick-service restaurants love because they’re virtually unbreakable.

shortbread cookies

Oreo cheesecake

chocolate-dipped biscotti

Petra & Pilar is a carinderia in its own category. If you order soft drinks, you’ll get it in a can — there are no dispensers to be seen. The place is also the designated showcase of Delimondo, the JAKA Foods Corporation line of deli items, a familiar sight at the Salcedo Saturday Market. The desserts – and of course I spot this immediately — are not your usual fruit salad/sago’t gulaman variety. When I’m there, they’re serving chocolate cookie sandwich cheesecake, shortbread, brownies dusted with cocoa, biscotti dipped in chocolate and crushed nuts, lemon (real lemon!) bars, date bars, and a fascinating cake called San Moreno, sponge cake layers alternating with whipped cream and chocolate and topped with a yema-like custard. Katrina tells me the dessert is a riff on something she had in Spain.

Delimondo deli
The Delimondo deli, which is on your left as you enter Petra & Pilar

There are those who may disbelieve that Petra & Pilar is a carinderia. After all, nothing beats eating in context – where are the flies? the cramped space? the less than ideal dining area? As I say, this is a carinderia in its own category; an expression of food as history and memory, the kind of food that disarms criticism because it’s just good and familiar.

Note: Prices per dish range from P40-P110.

Petra & Pilar
2111 JAKA Center, Chino Roces Ave, Makati
887-5168 / 893-5531 locals 480, 481
Open Mondays-Fridays, 7 am – 10 pm

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