5/F The Podium, 12 ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City
Open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Monday to Friday) and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Saturday to Sunday)
(SPOT.ph) There's no shortage of dining options at The Podium these days, but LoLa Café from Quezon City manages to set itself apart. Probably the best bit about it is that the restaurant itself is a reminder that the journey is the thing—it did take them almost seven years to branch out but boy, are they worth the wait.
Howard Dee is no stranger to the fickle tides of restaurant ownership, having seen LoLa through every season over the seven years since its inception. While a spot inside a mall is miles away from their original branch—which is inside a repurposed home—the interiors still have touches of a typical Filipino dwelling inside a modern-industrial space. “A lot of [the process] with the décor and the menu was timing and luck,” he admits with zero compunction, “but I’m grateful for all of it falling into place.”
Cut to present day: LoLa isn’t out to be another hotspot for “local food with a twist.” In fact, this repertoire is a veritable yet cohesive hodgepodge of classics, with each dish having a Filipino ingredient that really makes all the difference.
Take the Truffle Lengua (P395/solo; P750/sharing). It either sounds a little too good to be true or far too rich for normal consumption, but you’d be wrong any which way. The distinctive aroma of truffle is subtle, but not lost in the creamy sauce that’s generously drizzled over the lengua, which has a toothy firmness to it—precisely enough give to remind you of what it is. This is one of those dishes that you can’t have without rice. We’d like to see you try.
Similar to the lengua in terms of the rice requirement, the Humba Glazed Belly (P360/solo; P690/sharing) has just the right amount of caramelized bark to make it sensational even without the sauce. That said, the chimichurri on the side rounds it out almost perfectly, adding an element of earthiness and an aromatic aftertaste that inspires that all too familiar spiel of, “Maybe one more bite. Okay, last na. Last na talaga.”
For an alternative carb, the Pasta Negra (P275/solo; P520/sharing) is an unapologetic seafood dish that must be tried at least once. The naturally pungent ink is cushioned by the whole cream—yes, whole cream—and liberally peppered with slices of squid. It’s definitely not a treat to have on the regular unless for some reason you’re looking to give your general practitioner a decent bit of grief, but it’s a treat nonetheless.
If you’re the kind of person who’s always got room for dessert, the Kesong Puti Cheesecake (P220) is nothing short of gorgeous. The caramel-latik topping and crunchy coconut bits should be enough to convince anyone that Philippine desserts are the bomb—if that ultra-dense kesong puti base wasn’t already.
The team behind LoLa Café proves that it pays to take your time, even in a world that demands everything now, now, now. Their menu is a solid Exhibit A, declaring that this old neighborhood favorite is ready for its piece of the big city.
Photos by Majoy Siason