New Restaurant Alert: Mateo’s Restaurant Café at Diliman, Quezon City
A Spanish-food haven for the family.
Mateo's Restaurant Café
54 N. Domingo Avenue, Barangay Horseshoe, Quezon City
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
(SPOT.ph) Imagine the history of Filipino cuisine as a potluck party where every guest brings their favorite recipe to the gathering-Tagalogs with their love for broths and seafood, Ilocanos with a penchant for tossing pork into the fryer, dainty tapas from the Iberians...the list goes on. You'll see that vibrant history unfold at any given lunch or dinner at Mateo's.
Charming details matter.
Rather than executing culinary somersaults or channeling the high-end, muy caro tavernas of Ortigas, Makati, and Bonifacio Global City, Mateo's feels homey and filial. Its rustic, warm-colored interiors use materials found in the bahay na bato: clay bricks, wood panels and cut-outs, even ornate piazza tiles. An oil lampara hangs from the ceiling, hovering over a counter filled with ensaymada and brownies.
Its Spanish flavors are drawn from heirloom recipes passed down from the family patriarch, Mateo del Castillo, a full-blooded Spaniard with a passion for good food. "I don't think of it [the menu] as something invented; these are dishes we ate growing up," recalls granddaughter Grace Valerio. Mateo's Spanish Paella (P495) teems with fresh shrimp, clams, squid, chicken, and chorizo tossed together with saffron-hued rice that scoops up in clumps. (The burnt rice or tutong at the bottom is exquisite.) It takes 30 minutes to prepare, so order ahead or whet your appetite on tapas like garlic mushrooms or Tortilla Español (P150) cut into ribbons for easy sharing. Seafood is also available in the house Caprese Linguine (P275) done with in a light tomato sauce, dabs of pureed red beets, and a kick of chili.
Creamy Binagoongang Bagnet
Mrs. Valerio's daughter-in-law, Margaux Lucena, swears by a bowl of thick Special Kare Kare (P450). It's chock-full of farmer's vegetables-string beans, sliced eggplant, pechay-and fork-tender beef. Not to be outdone, the bagoong served with it is homemade. Bagnet is a specialty of another partner, Chef Oley Castillo (the restaurant is attached to his family's compound) who hails from Ilocos. Crisp pork belly is splayed out on top of a bed of sautéed sigarilyas and chilies. Coconut milk and fermented shrimp are all part of this Creamy Binagoongang Bagnet (P250).
A Dark Chocolate Mousse Dome (P150) serves as the final indulgence as prepared by Chef Oley and baking partner Chef Maea dela Cruz. Its reflective, dark brown surface (sprayed no less with edible gold) easily gives way. And with each mouthful you'll find crispy bits of ground rice and hazelnut. There's daily fresh bread to be had too, and butter and coconut-filled Señoritas (P7/each). You'll want to save room though for the signature Mateo's Ensaymada (P52) stuffed with cream cheese and decked with quezo de bola shavings served especially for those long luncheons that extend to merienda.
Dark Chocolate Mousse Dome
Wash your meal down with a Frozen Sangria (P250), red or white, infused with apple and orange slices. Part beverage and part sorbet, this is definitely worth getting your server's attention, channeling what Spanish you remember from college, to kindly ask, "Uno mas por favor."