Eating out is like trying my luck at the lotto, give or take some factors. Lately, I’ve been on a “losing streak,” where every restaurant I’ve been to has me feeling a hunger in my stomach and soul. It’s terribly disconcerting. Unless my meal was especially horrid, I almost always go back to a restaurant a second, even third time just to see if the first time around was a fluke. Here then, are some of my hits and misses in three separate posts all to be posted in one day.
In this series: Cocorama, C2 Classic Cuisine, and Paul Calvin’s Deli.
C2 Classic Cuisine
While Manila has become a global playground for our palates, I’ll never lose my love for Filipino food. While the classics reign supreme, there are times when I’m in the mood to be entertained by whimsical twists and tweaks on tradition. One such place that does this well is C2 Classic Cuisine, a restaurant of the Cravings Group.
Considering that the restaurant is a training ground for students of the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA), I’m surprised by how seamlessly the service and the quality of food mesh so well together. The Lumpiang Lucena (P180) quells my craving for something crunchy and vinegary, spring roll wrappers stuffed with shredded longganisa, vegetables, and grated young coconut. Its garlic-vinegar dip is cheek-puckering and opens up the appetite.
Because C2 is a place where tradition meets innovation ”“ a culinary pushing of the envelope, if you will ”“ I’m not at all surprised when the kare-kare (P475) I order is served de-boned atop a mound of the customary roll call of vegetables: string beans, eggplants, etc. A large receptacle holds the thick, peanutty sauce, but unlike the viand it’s meant to grace, it’s too viscous and is in desperate need of more flavor and less of that unnatural orange flavor (an overload of atsuete [annatto], no doubt). Undaunted, I push aside the offending orange sauce and ask for a dip of soy sauce, vinegar, and calamansi. Much better.
One dish that needs no doctoring is the Pork Humba (P275; cover photo), which is essentially pork belly (or liempo) that’s slow-cooked in a panocha sauce until it threatens to fall all over itself. Unctuous, with echoes of peanuts and needing hardly any chewing on my part, it’s one of those meat dishes that dissolves on the tongue.
C2 has a mighty impressive dessert list. The restaurant is much renowned for their Bibingka Soufflé (P145) which has won awards for its ethereal mélange of coconut custard, salted egg, quezo de bola, and toasted coconut. But as I said, I’m in the mood for all things that shatter in the mouth, so Turon ala Mode (P145) it is. The twist given to this street food is the ube smeared on the banana filling, its spring roll wrapper laced with a langka sauce. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream, this is one of those definitive hot-meets-cold desserts that tantalizes the taste buds.
I have high hopes for the Pastillas Panna Cotta (P135), which promises to be “a perfect blend of rich milk custard with pastillas morsels.” It’s good on all counts, just enough gelatin to set, and I can actually taste the pastillas though they’re not in morsels, but rather blended into the custard. There’s a layer of chocolate however, that while good, totally overwhelms the subtlety of the pastillas, rendering moot its delicate carabao milk taste.
C2 Classic Cuisine
*6th Level The Ledge, Shangri-la Plaza Mall, Mandaluyong City
636-1509 / 636-1510
*2nd Level Archaeology Area, Rockwell Power Plant Mall, Makati City