I lived in the Scout area in Quezon City for six years, from 1998-2004. I was a stone’s throw away (literally!) from Tomas Morato or Morato for short. The Scout area is actually part of Barangay Laging Handa which is named after the group of Filipino boy scouts who died in a plane crash on July 28, 1963 en route to the World Jamboree in Greece. The streets in the area are named after Scout Tobias, Scout de Guia, Scout Fernandez, and so on.
Food was never a problem when I lived near Morato because I had at least 25 restaurants to choose from when I was either too lazy to cook or had no food at home. The Philippine Department of Tourism actually considers Morato a tourist belt because of its number of restaurants and other entertainment venues. I actually made some of these restaurants an extension of my pantry: I’d drop by Tia Maria’s for tortillas whenever I was making burritos, or Icings Bakeshop for a loaf of bread to go with my pasta, and Seattle’s Best Coffee was right across the street whenever I needed a shot of espresso for my cake batter.
Traffic and parking was (and still is) a pain the ass, however, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Errant motorists would park hazardously near my driveway, making it impossible for me to put my car into the garage. I’d actually gone table to table once in Café Breton (a creperie) asking people if “car with license plate number so-and-so was theirs, and would they kindly move it.” Noise levels were decidedly high on those nights too, so my windows stayed closed and on went the aircon.
The area I live in now has a very different flavor from Morato, so I find myself getting sentimental whenever I’m back in the Scout area. Last Friday, I was in Morato for a meeting and had some time to kill. Naturally, parking was a problem ”“ what else is new in Manila? ”“ so I had to ditch the wheels and go hiking in my heels. No worries since I love to walk.
I decide to do a stroll down memory lane and drop by some of my favorite places. But first, I scope out the area to see what’s new.
This is Morato. It can be accessed (amongst several other routes) from the rotunda which intersects Timog and Tomas Morato Extension. As you can see, there are always plenty of cars.
Multi-level buildings are commonplace along Morato ”“ they’re the best deal for squeezing in as many establishments in one place with limited space ”“ think Singapore or Hong Kong. Sometimes the combinations work and sometimes the signs look like a mishmash.
Morato is a long straight street with several little streets on the left and right that lead to other places. Some streets are very wide, like the photo above taken of Scout Fuentebella, while some others are so narrow I feel like I should hold my breath while maneuvering my car through.
Fleur de Lys patisserie is the best place to have dessert along Morato. Owner Jackie Ang-Po, a pastry chef and instructor, knows her pastries. I counted her Pavlova Picasso as one of the most exciting desserts of 2003. The desserts have quirky, fun names like the Nuts About You (a macadamia tart I like), and The Next Best Thing, a molten chocolate cake clone with a caramel center and a chocolate “straw.”
A few days after the photo above was taken, I come back with my best friend, Bal. We haven’t seen in each other in months, and Fleur de Lys is one of our favorite places to chat whenever we’re in the area.
I see that the strawberry pie is available today. I immediately remember my friend Eric, whose wife is so enamored with the crust of this pie that he felt compelled to describe it to me and ask if I had a recipe for it. (I did, and dutifully gave it to him.)
This is your typical strawberry pie on a flaky-thin short crust sporting a shy coating of chocolate. It’s one of those honest-to-goodness pies where what you see is what you get, it’s neither too sweet nor too rich. The best part of it all is that scrumptious crust which I claim for myself and nibble on happily as Bal drinks up his toasty marshmallow coffee drink. Ah, this is life ”“ sweets and my best friend.
Fleur de Lys
305 Tomas Morato Ave., Q.C., beside Popular Bookstore
Uno is a neighborhood café that I frequented when I still lived in Quezon City. It’s also the first place I want to go back to whenever I’m in the area. Aside from the addition of a second floor, chef-owner Mari Relucio has kept his place small, fending off offers to franchise and expand. It’s also closed on Sundays and holidays because he believes in a balanced life (more power to him!)
Uno is cool and quiet, but I strongly recommend that you come here during off hours, not during meal times, unless you’d rather wait in line or worse, not be seated. The menu changes quarterly (or so I’m told) and there are always specials listed on the blackboard beside the pastry display. There are nice salads here with creative dressings like calamansi-anchovy, and honey wasabi soy. Present also are hot meat dishes to warm the stomach, but I’ve never paid them much mind because I always head straight for the pasta.
Today they are serving anchovy with tomato on penne (P185) and fresh shiitake with butter on spaghetti (P185). Uno bakes their own breads in-house which they serve at the beginning of every meal and are available for take-away, just P40 a loaf. Among the desserts that I like here are the tart lemon tart (P40), the chocolate fallen cake (P47), and the carrot cake (P50). Uno also has a cheesecake which reminds me of a Japanese cheesecake because of its lightness.
I’m lucky to get a table today, it’s smack in the middle of lunch service and the place is hustling. I opt for one of today’s specials, a pureed corn and sweet potato soup. The color is not what I’m expecting but it’s hot and warms me. The cilantro which serves as garnish is out of place here, it’s aggressive nature drowns the flavor of the corn and potato. It doesn’t work. But that’s just how it is. Sometimes it goes well and sometimes it doesn’t. Just like Morato.
195-C Morato corner Sct. Fuentebella, Q.C.