a setting for you at Café Ten Titas
Tita is the Filipino word for “aunt.” It’s meant to connote a female relation and is usually attached to the woman’s first name, thus I’m “Tita Lori” to my nephews. Tita is also a sign of respect though I call any woman older than me “tita,” even if we aren’t related.
It’s on this theme of “tita” that a new café has been built. Aptly called Café Ten Titas, it’s a globalized take on Filipino dishes. A look through the sturdy, colorful menu depicts in photos and postcards the story of a young girl who has been corresponding since 1989 with her ten titas who are scattered in places as far-removed from each other as Madrid, Osaka, London, British Columbia, etc. Recipes originated and were shared through this almost-two-decades-long correspondence. The young girl, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Chef Florabel Co of the eponymous Florabel at The Podium, states on the menu that the café is “… dedicated to triumphant Filipino titas around the world.” Hooray for the Filipina!
table at Café Ten Titas
Each tita has her own page on the menu with a matching photo and witty meal categories. Consider: Titas’ Sunday Breakfast Fiesta ”“ Tap-a-the-World! (P265), Bangus Republic (Bangus Breakfast from LA ”“ P220); Pandesal Forever – various pandesal toppings such as pan de humba or tinapa con quesong puti (P110-P155); My Comfort Women – Osso Buco in Classic Caldereta (P270), Monggo con Chorizo with Gourmet Tuyo (P170), and Twice-Cooked Adobo Short Ribs (P245). There are pastas too (Tocino Carbonara P210); seafood (Nilasing na Hipon with Bagoong Fried Rice P235); meats (Tita Cory’s Salpi-Wow! P285); and All Day Favorites which include the intriguing White Chocolate Champorado and Toblerone Champorado (P140 each).
Several menu items catch my eye ”“ I’m almost at a loss as to what to order, which is very unlike me since I’m quite decisive when it comes to food. But then I spot the Bangus Belly Ala Kiev (P220), a Filipino take on the classic chicken Kiev. In this case, plump fillets of bangus (milkfish) bellies scintillating in their glorious fat are rolled around a chilled chunk of cheddar cheese, bacon chunks, and carrot strips. It’s then dredged in breadcrumbs and fried until golden. Served with a slightly salty white sauce, the first bite echoes with the smokiness of the bacon which makes its presence known first, followed by the unmistakable flavor of bangus belly fat, and then my teeth sink into the cheese, now melting and oozing. The parsley-garnished white sauce is a perfect accompaniment to the fish. It is, I suspect, made from a good quality broth cube deglazed with the fish jus, and finished with either sour or all-purpose cream. Very well done. And very good.
My friend’s mouth waters at the sight of his order, the Lechon Kawali Binagoongan(P170): pork belly (liempo) that’s boiled and then deep-fried. It’s served with an order of bagoong (shrimp paste), and what the restaurant calls a “laguna salad” ”“ chunks of half-ripe mango and tomato wedges wading in a dipping sauce of patis, calamansi juice and perhaps vinegar. The entire dish, its components eaten separately or all together in large satisfying mouthfuls are a balanced interplay of sour, crispy, salty.
Both main dishes are eaten with a bowl of fragrant white rice, so fragrant in fact that I dare say it’s Thai jasmine rice. Toothsome and hot, the rice is a perfect foil to the food, encouraging us to eat more, wishing that the meal will not end too soon.
I often eat my meal with only one thing in mind: dessert. In this case, a nearby table orders something so visually riveting that only good manners and decency force me to take my eyes off it. Called the Suman Threesome (P185), this dessert is found under the Dear Turon… Love Sago… category. A charmingly all-Filipino repast, three kinds of suman (long, narrow rice cakes made with glutinous rice and coconut milk) are showcased on a platter: suman sa ibus; suman sa lihiya (fried in a crunchy coating); and something new called choco suman. The finest of the lot, the latter is drizzled with Nutella, that wondrous chocolate-hazelnut spread, while the other two suman drip invitingly in sticky-sweet coco jam. Suman is traditionally eaten with cheeks of cold mango which is present here, as well as wedges of navel oranges, perhaps to take away any surfeit of sweetness. What an innovative dessert this is, a mark of superlatively tasty Filipino genius.
Because he’s a hardcore, and I do mean hardcore chocoholic, my friend orders the molten lava cake (P170) that comes to table with a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting lazily atop it. He promptly inhales the dessert, leaving me with a single spoonful. Homey and warm, it’s a true example of the irresistibility of dual-temperature desserts.
Café Ten Titas is a brightly-lit spot in the expanse that is Gateway Mall. Try to nab a seat in the cozy nook just off the main seating area, it will afford you a view of the Araneta Coliseum’s dome. Orders are not served immediately since everything is cooked to order, but the servers are attentive and more than willing to suggest the restaurant’s bestsellers. While waiting for your food, acquaint yourself with the menu. It’s a visual, captivating read of the story of ten titas and the food you’re about to eat.
THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED.
Cafe Ten Titas
3rd Level, Gateway Mall,
Cubao, Quezon City
Another restaurant at the Gateway Mall: