Friday, November 16, 2007


5 out of 5 stars

The Holy Temple of Food Lovers

For many, the best restaurant in Manila would never be reconciled. Some would say Red, the others, Antonio's. Then you'd probably hear Tivoli Grill, or how about that newly transferred Sala? Although food lovers everywhere would have their own personal favorites, there is no doubt that an excellent restaurant would merit in each person's top five list. So much so that even a person who's not into dining out would notice the quality and work put into each dish.

Dsc01241_2 Nevertheless, my own number one winner would be Lolo Dad's. Tucked in a small corner in Leon Guinto by Quirino Avenue, it looks pretty unassuming from the outside with its black grill gates leading to a small garden by the front. I ate here for the first time with my family because I heard so much about this place. Good thing it was with them considering it cost a pretty penny --- around three thousand per head to be more precise. This is probably why a lot more expats and foreigners dine here than locals; the latter stay away from this place except for special occasions.
Anyway, one of the unique features that they boast of is their open kitchen, where you can even reserve a table fronting it. Service is impeccable and unobtrusive (except for this time where I had to practically demand the wine/drink list from a certain waiter) and the ambiance is perfect for a good conversation or a romantic date.

Dsc01248_1 Pao and I decided to get the traditional 8-course degustacion menu, so that each dish is small enough so as not to overwhelm, but at the same time sampling each course in bringing out a different flavor and texture. As we waited for our courses to come, they served us with freshly baked bread which was quickly replenished when it was fully consumed, with two really generous servings of flavored butter, one creamed and the other herbed.

We started out with an appetizer of Marinated Salmon, Smoked Scallops and Grilled Prawns, served in "Iron-Chef" grandiose style. The first was done with a technique that is akin to a traditional ceviche, marinated delicately in lime and served with fresh salsa to bring out the freshness of the fish. As for the scallops, it was served on top of a grilled watermelon and garnished with caviar. As much as Pao didn't enjoy the watermelon with the scallops, I found that it served a good contrast between the natural coolness and sweetness of the fruit with the juicy meatiness of the scallop. Lastly, the grilled prawn was served with a pesto bruschetta. It tasted really good because the pesto that the bread was baked in was also the same one used to marinade the shrimp. I thought the presentation of this dish was genius, with the application of different methods of cooking bringing out the best in the food --- from the least invasive, which is marinading, to smoking, to totally cooking the meat by grilling. Also, this dish wouldn't be signature lolo dad's without painting the edges with their special sauces and oils, and finishing off with a microgreen salad. This hors d'oeuvre certainly started the degustacion right, and raised the bar for the next courses to come.


And our Espresso of Roma Tomatoes passed with flying colors. Pao liked this dish the best, sipping our soups from small teacups served with a small puff pastry baked with cheese and parsley. The soup was deliciously tangy, and it tasted like a burst of freshly shaved parmesan cheese, which picked off the puff pastry well. I was surprised to check my menu and find out it was actually blendered tomatoes because the soup tasted so creamy and cheesy, two adjectives that I love. It was presented simply with a delicate froth atop the soup.


As our next course came, we took a sip of our wines. Pao got the Merlot, a dry red to match his main course of lamb, while I got the sweet rose-colored Zinfadel to match my sea bass. Each of the house wines were served with individual decanters, so that one does not overfill their wine glass, as one can pick off the aroma from its wide rimmed glasses. Mine was a pretty cordial wine, with a long finish and obviously low on acidity.

Pao with the wines

If the espresso was Pao’s favorite dish, this was mine. Described as Pan-fried liver and sautéed Mushrooms Flower Scented Jus, it was simply foie gras heaven!! A big piece of perfectly seared foie gras lay atop a couple of portabello mushrooms, and drizzled with foie gras drippings and pine nuts. It was prepared with such simplicity, but the ingredients were so fresh that it was best that they left the cooking uncomplicated. One knows that portabello mushrooms are one of the meatiest mushrooms, and its juicy texture blended well with the foie gras that melted nicely into the mushrooms when you chewed on it. There was also a pleasant crunch and a new layer of taste brought about by the pine nuts. Really, in terms of presentation, this was the simplest, but in terms of taste, this was the most delicious!


Our palate cleanser sorbet was called Smoke Belcher. I had to take a picture of it several times because the presentation was superb! It was a small scoop of raspberry or some other fruity sorbet spiked with something like Campari. It was placed on a cup on top of a clay teapot where the latter’s inside was full of dry ice so it looked as if it was belching out smoke (hence, the name).


The sorbet gave way to the fish for me, and lamb for Pao. The sea bass was so succulent and firm that it almost tasted meaty (it did not flake), yet it was tender enough that you don’t need a knife to cut through it. It was one of the best sea bass I’ve ever tasted, and the potato terrine was a good siding for it. Though I must admit I did not taste the truffle it claims to have at all. Pao didn’t feel as estatic as I was about his lamb, saying that it was good, but not worth the extravagant price. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

Pan-fried Fillet of Sea Bass with Truffle Potato Terrine

Roast Rack of Lamb with Truffle Potato Terrine

Our next course of Roquefort cheese flan with tomato marmalade was probably the most unappetizing of all. The flan was just built bad, and mixing it with the tomato puree probably salvaged some of the tartness. But overall, this is a course I’d rather not elaborate on because I wouldn’t have much good things to say about it, albeit the remarkable plating.


To be fair with the degustacion, the last course was probably the only off course. Everything else was magnificent, and the dessert definitely brought the whole meal back to its glorified perspective. Described as Poached white chocolate brulee, Crushed mochaccino and Strawberry-balsamic ice cream, I’d rather call it a deconstructed crème brulee a la mode (which it really is, anyway). Its amazing how they’re able to poach the custard of a crème brulee, which is usually put in ramekins and baked. Unfortunately, it looked better than it tastes, as it gave off a weird flavor because of the white chocolate. The plate was beautifully deconstructed, as there was even this peach slice that looked like it slipped off the plate, with the liquid custard being used as skid marks. Again, it didn’t look as good as it tastes since the peach slice was too tart, and the runny custard was actually bitter. What saved it was the ice cream, which actually tasted good with the balsamic sauce swirled to its side. And as long as you dab the ice cream onto the poached crème brulee, it tasted like a great dessert. And the mochaccino line running through the entire length of the dessert was more for presentation than it was for taste, since I barely tasted it, and I even thought it was pepper at first. Nevertheless, the dessert was capped off right with coffee and lots of lounging around while we wait for our food to digest.


All in all, the Lolo Dad’s experience is a great experience, but it may not be for everyone. For those who would rather feel like they got their money’s worth, it would be better eating in well-known buffets like Spiral or Heat. If they want more rustic and heartier meals, but with the same quality of ingredients, stick to Antonio’s. But if you’re into dishes that experiment with ingredients (i.e. playing off fruits with the savory) or love complicated cooking techniques that are well executed (i.e. a great bouillabaisse, a great seafood terrine or a meat undergoing several layers of cooking), then Lolo Dad’s is your thing. As for me, this resto has been and is my number one choice of restaurant. And it still hasn’t fallen off its pedestal.

seafood menu. click on the pic to magnify.

meat menu. click on the pic to magnify.

ate in:

Lolo Dad's Cafe, Malate
899 Pres. Quirino Ave corner Leon Guinto Street, Malate
Manila City, Metro Manila
(02) 522-2941
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 10:00 am - 8:00 pm

other branch:

Lolo Dad's Brasserie
G/F 6750 Ayala Ave.
Makati City, Metro Manila
(02) 813-6750
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 10:00 am - 10:00 pm

*Be sure to reserve before dining.

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