It was our last day in the Philippines and I was dying to have some good, authentic Filipino food. Being that my Dad was pretty familiar with the ins and outs of Manila, he proposed Romulo Café. There are three branches of Romulo Café in Manila and we went to the one in Makati.
Before arriving to Romulo Café, I admittedly never knew who Carlos P. Romulo was. When you enter the dining room on the main floor, it would be hard to miss his omnipresent portrait behind the bar.
Among his many decorated roles, the late Carlos P. Romulo or CPR, was a distinguished Filipino general, world reknown diplomat, the first Asian to serve as president of the UN General Assembly, a Pulitzer Prize winner in journalism for predicting an attack on the Americans by the Japanese during the WWII era, a revered public speaker, teacher and perhaps most importantly, a beloved grandfather.
Romulo Café was opened by Carlos P. Romulo’s grandchildren as an homage to his extraordinary life achievements and as a way of spreading his legacy. The dishes served are inspired by nostalgia and family values; the way their grandmother, Lola Virginia, prepared her signature dishes.
Not exactly a café, the restaurant is tastefully decorated in a monochromatic scheme that is echoed through out all three dining rooms.
My first impression upon entering was, “Ooooooh this gonna be expensiiiiiiive.” Wrong! Prices for mains averaged to about 360 Philippine Pesos, the equivalent of 6.60 euros.
Alright, let’s get down to bizznesssss!
We started with the colourful Pomelo salad which consisted of greens with pomelo and salted egg, drizzled with Baguio-strawberry vinaigrette. Not a big fan of salted egg, I found the salad refreshing! The pomelo and touch of strawberry vinaigrette balanced out that rascal of a salted egg ????????
Next, those Lechon Sisig Wraps. Crispy lechon kawali bits in tortilla wrapper and served with hoisin and lechon sauce.
What is lechon kawali, you ask? Why it is simply and magnificently, boiled and deep-fried pork belly, you silly! Oooh these babies were too easy to eat. Pop in yo mouth, vanish — GONE! Just like dem Peking duck wraps, oh you *know* what I’m talking about!
Our third appetizer was the Ginataang Kohol, local escargot cooked in coconut milk and served without the shell. I was pretty impartial to this dish, the flavours didn’t wow me as the previous appetizers did.
One thing that I absolutely love are soups. The Beef Bulalo didn’t disappoint! Beef Bulalo is beef bone-marrow soup that’s served with corn. Savoury and brimming with flavour, this was my favourite.
Another goodie was a vegetable dish called Laing with Adobo Flakes. As seen in the feature image, the dish is made of taro leaves cooked in coconut milk and topped with adobo flakes. This was my brother’s favourite. A rich and comforting dish, it would be too easy to polish this up with a whole pot of rice!
The Baked Lemongrass Chicken packs a punch to the palate but was unfortunately too salty. Otherwise, it would of been a very good dish.
Visually impressive, came the Flying Tilapia. A deep-fried tilapia with three sauces: chili-garlic, honey-bagoong, and soy vinegar. Bagoong is a commonly used Filipino condiment; fish or shrimp paste made from fermented fish or shrimp and salt. My dad goes, “You gotta try bagoong! You’ve never been to the Philippines if you’ve never tasted bagoong.”
Uh huh. That’s what you said when your friends made me eat balut. Going a little off course here, but balut is a Filipino delicacy : hardboiled duck fetus, feathers, beak and all #clearlynotavegan ????
Back to the bagoong! It was okay, kuya*. The honey-bagoong didn’t tantalize but I’ll be on the look out for a better version the next time I’m in the Philippines.
Our last dish was the Grilled Squid squid stuffed with cheese, tomatoes, and onions, served with squid-ink rice. To be honest, this dish was pretty forgettable. Sorry, kuya*!
By the time we were finished, everyone was too full to entertain the idea of dessert. Except for meeeeeee…..! Turn down dessert? NEVAHHH. Oh, how I always proclaim to have an extra pouch separate from my stomach for the gloriousness that is dessert. Perhaps, all foodies do? ????
Our lovely friend, Sam, suggested the Leche Flan, a classic Filipino dessert. Sadly, I found that the flan was quite dense and too eggy. It wasn’t light, nor did it have the melt-in-your-mouth sensation I was expecting. Sob!
Would I go back to Romulo Café? To be honest, I wouldn’t be racing to go back but if I ever found myself there, I’d want to try Tito Greg’s Kare-Kare and the Crispy Pork Binagoongan.
Till our next meal together,
Location: 148 Jupiter Street (corner Comet, a block from Reposo), Bel-Air Village, Makati City, Philippines.
Opening hours: 11:00AM – 3:00PM, 6:00PM – 11:00PM
P.S. There is a branch of Romulo Café in Kensington, London. The reviews sound promising, I might just have to check it out when ever I get the chance to pop by London!
*What does kuya mean? It is a friendly way of addressing an older male as “older brother.” The locals address male strangers as ‘kuya‘ incessantly!