My Mother's Garden

Teresa Salazar heads to one of the city's best kept secrets to see what the fuss is all about.

The interiors of My Mother's Garden

Tucked away in cramped and busy Zamora Street in Pasay City is a dining sanctuary dubbed by bloggers as the city's "best kept secret." My Mother's Garden is a residence-turned-restaurant (built in the 1940s by National Artist for Architecture Pablo S. Antonio) run part-time alternately by fashion designers Malu and Letlet Antonio Veloso.

Formerly called The Garden Room, the residence was converted into a restaurant last year as a tribute to Pablo S. Antonio's wife Doña Marina, Malu's mother. Its ambience is cool and refreshing, with a wild, almost jungle-like garden surrounding the house, small gardens inside, and the use of natural lighting, and fans instead of air-conditioning.

Its cuisine boasts of Filipino and international dishes perfected with the personal touch of Malu, the fashion designer who is also immersed in the culinary arts. And while they have set menus ranging from P700-P900 per head (with each menu including fresh fruit juice, green salad, and dessert), My Mother's Garden continually updates and innovates their recipes.

Here are the top dishes that come out of their kitchen with a flourish, and to resist taking a bite (or two, or more) of each highly recommended dish is simply an exercise in futility.

my mother's garden, melanzane, adobo

Melanzane (left) and Chicken Adobo (right)

1. The Filipino classic, the Chicken Adobo, is made unusual and interesting because it's cooked in virgin olive oil, most evident when tasted. The chicken is not swimming in oil, but it also doesn't lose the sharp, savory taste of adobo we have all come to know and love. Virgin olive oil is also recommended by Malu as a staple ingredient for more healthful cooking.

2. Considered to be one of the restaurant's signature dishes is the Melanzane, or eggplant parmesan. Malu Antonio Veloso reinterprets this Italian dish of tomatoes, eggplant, and two kinds of cheeses (mozzarella and parmesan) by using only the freshest ingredients; no ingredient in this dish came out of a can. You can really taste the difference in every bite, with each ingredient vying for center stage each time.

3. Mustard Chicken. Another signature dish which utilizes chicken thighs, considered by Letlet as the best part of the chicken, because it absorbs the flavor of mustard best. The mustard is subtle but at the same time also apparent, complimenting they typical taste of fried chicken, offering an interesting mix of the sweet and the salty.

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4. Pasta with Pesto Sauce. My Mother's Garden always puts the sauce of a certain dish to the side, allowing each person to customize his plate with as little or as much sauce as he likes. The pesto sauce is light and satisfying, and you are not left with this heavy feeling of having consumed too much oil.

my mother's garden, chococake, pasta pesto

Chocolate Cream Cake (left) and Pasta with Pesto Sauce (right)

5. Chocolate Cream Cake with Mangoes and Strawberries, and Chocolate Brownies and Assorted Tarts. No meal is complete without dessert, and My Mother's Garden doesn't disappoint with their signature desserts of cake and assorted tarts. The rich and creamy Chocolate Cake intrigues the palate into guessing what are the different kinds of chocolate that went into the cake. But then again, one finds some difficulty in doing so when fresh mangoes and strawberries accompany each bite. Their srawberry tarts (with fresh strawberries, mind you), brownies, and chocolate cupcakes are light and fluffy and incredibly easy to finish.

As an added touch, the restaurant also operates a small bridal shop, where clients can browse dresses and designs while waiting for their food to arrive, and is also an art gallery, with the walls currently displaying the watercolor paintings of Edgar Doctor, as well as other artworks for sale. Additional plans to maximize the space are currently in motion, which gives us more reasons to turn right at that tiny street and schlep to the gate that bears the magic number 2650.

My Mother's Garden is located at 2650 Zamora Street, Pasay City. Call (632) 831-8407, (632) 485-9244, or call/text (0917) 600-8886 and (0918)702 2125 or e-mail velosobrides2003@yahoo.com for inquiries and reservations.

Images by Noel Salazar.

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