This Al-Fresco Plantita Haven in Lipa Also Serves a Mean Beef Rib Plate

Hearty food in a zen garden setting? Sign us up.

Garden Bistro
JP Laurel, Banay Banay, Lipa, Batangas
Instagram: www.instagram.com/gardenbistro.lipa
Open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Monday to Sunday)

garden bistro
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason

(SPOT.ph) Although Batangas is known for beaches, coffee, and great produce, the once-sleepy town is only now truly shaping up to be a quiet getaway—the possibilities are virtually endless for this historic area. Garden Bistro is the product of exactly that sort of lens, thanks to chef and restaurateur Grant Zuñiga, his mother, and her plants.

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Also read: 10 Must-Visit Cafés in Manila Where You Can Chill Outdoors

garden bistro
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason

Drop by this zen al-fresco restaurant on your next trip to Batangas:

No, really. “It started out with my mom’s plants,” says Zuñiga, gesturing to the absolute forest in the restaurant. We say “in,” but what we mean is, “under its roof”—the bistro manages to combine the best of both al fresco dining and what can only be described as a plant reserve in miniature. “She really has a green thumb, like, I’ve basically killed plants that she’s brought back to life. And she’s so enterprising that if you look,” he points to a pot that houses a thriving Monstera, “there are price tags. Because people always want to buy them.”

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garden bistro
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
garden bistro
 
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
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But more than the quintessential plantita’s dream come true—and even more than the pet grooming service right next door (so you can watch dogs get brushed!)—there is, of course, the food. There’s no particular theme other than what Zuñiga knows he likes to eat, and we can tell you today: We want whatever he’s having.

garden bistro
 
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
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garden bistro
 
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason

His training becomes evident in what other people might initially deem ordinary, such as the Bistro Buffalo Wings (P250). Taking the New York classic and making it more suitable to Filipino tastes—all while keeping it crisp yet juicy—means you could eat a plateful of the spicy-tangy-umami-sweet wings by yourself, if you’re nasty. No special amount of determination needed. Round it out with the Truffle Potato Wedges (P200), which give a softer sort of crunch, and a fluffiness within. They’ve got enough of an aromatic punch in both the potatoes and the aioli to take the wings’ heat down to a light simmer.

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garden bistro, Bistro Buffalo Wings
Buffalo wings get a Filipino-friendly twist (that works!) in the Bistro Buffalo Wings. 
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
garden bistro, Truffle Potato Wedges
Crisp on the outside and fluffy within, the Truffle Potato Wedges make for a great starter or side. 
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
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We’re already fans of the Spicy Beef Ribs (P300), whose profile probably falls somewhere between rendang, classic Filipino barbecue, and a particularly thick caldereta. We wish we could explain it better, but there’s something very hearty and Asian about this dish that’ll have you shoveling it into your mouth, regardless of who’s looking. You will not care. And you will care even less when you break your stride with the Crispy Calamari (P270).

garden bistro, Spicy Beef Ribs
The Spicy Beef Ribs are at once familiar with their Filipino BBQ-slash-caldereta esque profile, and novel given the spice factor. 
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
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garden bistro, Crispy Calamari
You'll want to have the Crispy Calamari on your table for a casual nibble. 
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason

Up for something more Italian-American? It’s the Chicken Parmigiana (P300) for you, then. There are few things more comforting than food of the sort that's intensely crunchy, salty, and obviously fried, then dunked and/or smothered in sauce. Throw in some melted cheese, because why not? One might think that this one could read homemade—the very mean might say “pedestrian”—but sometimes, the smartest move is the most obvious one. This combination of easy flavors and textures is not a fallback; it’s a backbone.

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garden bistro, Chicken Parmigiana
The combo of easy flavors and textures on the Chicken Parmigiana gives the dish its own distinct charm.
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason

The ever-dependable fallback—at least for the indecisive diner—is pasta. This Carbonara (P250), like many, isn’t for purists. But the Zuñigas aren’t purists, and neither should you be, especially seeing as you’re eating pasta in Batangas. All that to say, yes, it has cream and mushrooms, and no, we’re not bothered by it. Let’s put it this way: you can ask for adobo in Sweden, and you’re not going to get what you have at home, but you’ll probably still like it. And what’s not to like about bacon, cream, and spaghetti? Yep, that’s what we thought.

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garden bistro, Carbonara
The Carbonara is on the decidedly creamy side, which—departure from tradition aside—has a special place in our hearts (and stomachs). 
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason

If all that wasn’t enough, there’s a secret dog park in the back. File your vacation leave and plan your route down to Batangas, ASAP. Garden Bistro, if nothing else, is a great first (and second, third, last) stop on your trip.

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Photos by Majoy Siason

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