Hubby and were just so glad that the rains stopped for a little bit today. It had been raining for days now so at the first sign of a less-rainy day, we called up Chef Laudico’s Casa Filipino (probably the newest buffet restaurant in Quezon City) and asked if they can still accept a late booking for lunch. We had always been planning to try the restaurant out (we’ve began noticing it in the last two months when we’re on the way to Timog area) but we decided today is a perfect day. For one, we were not able to celebrate our monthsary almost a week ago because I had been traveling lately. (What a perfect excuse! wink! wink!)
It was nice to hear that they’d still accommodate us even if it was already about 12:15 pm when we called up. We were told to come before 2:00 pm so we rushed to the place and were again pleased that a table for two was waiting for us inside (we were supposed to be seated in the open-air terrace section because of our late booking and the high number of walk-in guests–it was ok with us but thought it might get too humid on a lunch hour). Anyway, before I proceed with this post, let me remind you that I am not a food critic by profession although I do try my best to educate myself when it comes to food. ;) Of course, being a food-lover, traveler, and then married to an aspiring chef gives me some confidence when discussing food and restaurants. I definitely know when a food is good or bad. I have professional experience, too, in customer service, so I am a sucker for good service. For this simple restaurant review, I also relied on the Association of Food Journalists’ (AFJ) Guidelines for Food Critics found at http://www.afjonline.com/afj.aspx?pgID=887. I will also use the ratings, which they often recommend or use.
Upon entering the place, I was immediately pleased with the atmosphere, ambiance, interior design, lighting, and over-all look. It looked like an ancestral Pinoy home converted to a modern-yet-traditional-restaurant. I would just recommend that they go easy on the tightly-arranged tables because the place looks so crowded (and almost suffocating) on a busy day. They can probably address this by doing two batches of lunch (or dinner) buffet, or giving more room (and breathing space!) to the diners on the second floor (if indeed they are using the second floor). This way, the diners will still feel some kind of privacy, without worrying that the people beside their table can overhear everything they are discussing. The noise can become so bothersome also particularly if you are one of those people who prefer some semblance of quiet and peace when dining out. Of course, the noise cannot be avoided in buffet restaurants but, still, a careful planning can address the noise and the tightly-packed crowds on weekends/holidays.
Now, let’s get down to business and discuss the food! :) For appetizers, the restaurant certainly did not scrimp. They offered so many options that we had to stop ourselves from trying out everything or we won’t make it to the main course. We had Lumpia Cones, Karnevorous Pizza, and Pork Sisig Baskets for starters. We enjoyed the Karnevorous Pizza and it can easily become one of our favorite dishes there. We won’t recommend the Lumpia Cones though. We have certainly tasted better versions of the dish. JR is also good (excellent?!) with Lumpia dishes that I should probably ask Chef Laudico to hire him as his Lumpia master. (wink!)
Next stop: Salad Bar. I decided to become adventurous and try the bagoong fish sauce as dressing for the Pinoy Salad. I have never eaten a salad with bagoong as a dressing but this seems to be perfect for the lettuce, green mango, carrots, radish, and steamed okra and eggplant. I also took Tuna Kilawin Spoons and a piece of Shrimp Maki. Perfect, I said to myself and then took some photos of my plate before devouring my new finds. My verdict? The Pinoy Salad is a nice approach so I should give credit to Chef Laudico for reminding us again that a nutritious meal of mostly uncooked and steamed vegetables need no longer be that boring. For future diners, just go easy on the fish bagoong so the salty taste won’t be too overpowering. Tuna Kilawin Spoon is ok although I somehow got confused with the name. It looked and tasted like Tuna Sashimi so I somehow missed the “Kilawin” part (or is it just me?). I know that Kilawin means the food had been cooked in vinegar and of course, in bits of pepper, salt, onion, ginger, and spices. This Tuna Kilawin certainly did not taste like it was cooked in vinegar so maybe they have a new twist or approach to it. :)
Just so I can eat more variants of the main dishes, I decided to go easy on the servings. I took two or three spoons of the Adobo Rice, a piece of Steamed Fish Fillet, and a scoop of Grilled Vegetables with Pesto and Cheese. The latter two are run-away winners! The Steamed Fish Fillet is probably the best dish in the whole main dishes’ table. It is cooked to the right texture and the flavors beautifully burst in your mouth. Fish at its best! The Grilled Vegetables with Pesto and Cheese is also cooked perfectly and goes well with the fish dish. As for the Adobo Rice, the restaurant should certainly review their recipe–the rice dish was bland and did not give justice to its name.
Still savoring the memories of the fish and vegetables dishes in my mouth, I then went to the main dishes’ counter again and decided to try two pasta dishes, Longganara and Tuyonesca, and Fried Chicken in Mango Curry Sauce. The Fried Chicken dish is quite good (although a little salty) but the two pasta dishes were certainly big disappointments. Their names are actually interesting but sadly, they don’t deliver. Again, their kitchen team may want to review the recipes and do some more experimentation. After all, the perfect dishes don’t come easy and are mostly learned over time.
We were curious about their Angus Beef so we also tried a small portion. It was nothing spectacular but the sauce that goes with it is good enough. JR was also not impressed with the Balamban Liempo (after all, he hails from Balamban, Cebu, and knows how the real Balamban Liempo tastes like) so this one can be missed, too. Just reserve your tummy’s spaces for the other offerings. :)
Of course, a good meal should always have a happy ending, right? Well, we were in for a little more disappointment because there was no more Suman Panacotta in the dessert counter. Darn, we just saw something like it on Junior Master Chef last night and were salivating for it. :) Nevertheless, there’s a lesson to be learned–book early if you want to catch, I assume, the restaurant’s signature dessert dish. Anyway, my attention was grabbed by the Tablea Chocolate Fountain so decided to make my own experiment at plating. I always told JR that he should hire me as his plating consultant when he is already a Chef. Look here - I made a “snowy mountain” of watermelon, pineapple, and dripping chocolate. The sweet chocolate certainly made the very sour pineapple edible enough. :) The chocolate was supposed to go with a specific kind of bread/cookie but I could no longer find any cake that can go with it so tried it with the fruits. The Pound Cup Cake is ok but again, it was nothing spectacular. The kitchen team may also want to improve their desserts.
It was definitely an enjoyable lunch and service is great (one of the waiters was thoughtful enough to offer to take our pictures). The price is reasonable, too. For P488/person on a weekend buffet, this place gives good value for money. I admire the owners because this seems like an uncharted path: establishing a restaurant in a predominantly residential area. Although it is quite near Timog and Morato areas, still, it takes courage to set up a restaurant business in an area where diners do not really frequent. But there goes the beauty and charm of Casa Filipino: it is proud of its beginnings and does not wish to conform. It dances to its own beat.
Over-all, I give the restaurant a TWO STAR-rating, which, in the AFJ Guidelines, refer to: (Good) Solid places that beckon with generally appealing cooking. It can easily climb up the ladder if only more attention can be given to the quality and taste of the food. And I am pretty sure Chef Laudico and his team will rise up to the challenge. After all, it is a fairly new establishment and diners would normally give such places second and even third chances. Count on me and JR to dine there again.
Kudos and many best wishes! (For more photos, please scroll down.)
Ratings as provided/recommended by the AFJ.
- FOUR STARS: (Extraordinary) Transcendent. A one-of-a-kind, world-class experience.
- THREE STARS: (Excellent) Superior. Memorable, high-quality menus frequently accompanied by exciting environs and/or savvy service.
- TWO STARS: (Good) Solid places that beckon with generally appealing cooking.
- ONE STAR: (Fair) Just OK. A place not worth rushing back to. But, it might have something worth recommending: A view, a single dish, friendly service, lively scene.
- NO STAR: (Poor) Below-average restaurants.
CASA FILIPINO | Scout Torillo corner Scout Fernandez, Barangay Sacred Heart, Quezon City | Tel. No. 921-1850
(This is not a paid blog.)