Comfort food is one that's simply prepared and redolent of home and solace; a haven of sorts if you will.
Pancake House is known for such comfort food like, well, pancakes. Light, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth type, its pillowy-soft consistency wraps you in its warm embrace. I have a couple of favorites -- Caramel Banana Walnut and Chocolate Marble (I warned you I have a love-hate relationship with peanut butter). Meanwhile my daughter is an avid fan of their Mini Pancakes with Candy-Coated Choco Bites (P101). We've been on an epic battle over getting her to eat pasta or rice instead of this breakfast/dessert item. Admittedly, I've long past waved the white flag. I now know better than to force her to order something she half-heartedly likes and not finish it anyway. Our compromise: order the pancakes and eat at least 5 big bites from my pasta or rice dish.
Pancake House's Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (P165) will forever hold a special place in my heart. It's one of those food that you grow up with, share with your kids and grow old with. A pool of dark red sauce packed with ground meat lays on top of interlaced spaghetti noodles; a tuft of shredded cheese at the crown. Its sauce isn't too sweet like most homemade Filipino spaghetti dishes, neither is it too tomatoey, which is a mark of an authentic Italian pasta dish. Irresistible to every child's and adult's palate, it is a mystery how it captures the heart of every diner that gets to taste it. I have yet to meet someone who doesn't like it.
And I must not forget the Hot Roast Beef (P263). Thin slices of beef atop a slice of white bread devoid of its soft crust, all smothered with light, savory gravy sauce. Best eaten while still piping hot, a scoop of mashed potatoes and a cup of corn and carrots sit on its side. It isn't so much the flavor of the beef that makes this particular dish comforting as it is the temperature and palatability of the sauce. A tender bite brings with it the warmest blanket on a cold winter's night.
I like the simplicity of their Caesar Salad (P170). Crispy salad greens, bacon bits, the crunchy croutons, powdered parmesan and the obligatory caesar dressing. All the essential ingredients coming together in a tumble of green, cream and brown. A perfect mix of saltiness from the bacon, the sharpness of parmesan, the acidity of the dressing and the cleansing power of the greens. The taste leaves an appetizing trail in your mouth that makes you hanker for more.
One fairly new dish is the Chicken in Lemon Sauce (P170), which didn't leave a favorable impact at all. Shards of chicken, which were a bit tough, lay scattered across several steamed asparagus spears. The poor excuse for a lemon sauce was thin and pale and hinted of a faint citrus flavor, or did it really?
Also recently, Pancake House has introduced a few dishes inspired by the local reality cooking show, Junior MasterChef Pinoy Edition. Upon trying the Fish Burger with Malunggay Sauce (P235), my immediate thought was: you are better off sticking to comfort food, Pancake House! Five irregularly shaped patties lean adjacently on a mound of brown rice with caramelized ginger for a crest. The fish was a bit tough and dry, and the malunggay sauce wasn't much of a help since it was scarce and on the verge of evaporating even under the shelter of rice.
I believe Pancake House has lasted for decades because it has provided so many Filipino families with good food that brings comfort and a sense of home. I've noticed that the new dishes that appear on the menu are usually a mix of hits and misses, one that is a change, albeit not always nice, but something different just the same. It may provide a respite somewhat to the perfect meals they serve, but I still believe these classic plates are what will get people to come back over and over, time and again.