Really, did you honestly think that a dish from Lolo Dad's won't make it to my top list?!
I don't think I've met another food lover who doesn't know Lolo Dad's. The name is quite legendary. So much so that crossing that step beneath the archway that bears its name, is in itself a victory, as you now begin to anticipate the beautiful meal that lies ahead of you.
Inside is a small, intimate anteroom which holds a few dining tables. It then leads to another cozy dining room with an open kitchen on one side. I saw the chef whipping up some gorgeous dishes as I settled on a wooden chair much like those from old, ancestral homes.
Indeed, the reputation of this fine dining restaurant is such that I felt a sudden rush of anxiousness in the pit of my stomach. The waiter, however, was so approachable and courteous, that I almost---just as suddenly---felt right at home. And so, as I found out later, was the rest of their waitstaff.
I knew I was supposed to be saving room for what could be one of the loveliest meals of my year, but the warm dinner rolls kept beckoning with that come-hither scent wafting through the air. A spread of roasted garlic butter was safely nestled in a ceramic container that looked like it belonged in a vintage tea set. I smeared some butter on a newly-pinched piece of bread, and I did not stop at one. I had to restrain myself after having two rolls in fear that I would berate myself later if I were to miss out on dessert only because I was sated by then.
My last memorable restaurant dish of 2012, though certainly not in any way the least.
My anticipation was building, one that I kept trying to control. I knew better than to get my hopes up, only to be disappointed in the end. But this is Lolo Dad's, I reasoned out. How could they go wrong with it? Before my mind---and my stomach---could suffer any more internal debate, the waiter placed the Foie Gras dish in front of us.
The mesclun salad had a lovely vinaigrette, and I especially liked the touch of red radish slices peeking from beneath the greens. A wisp of smoke escapes from a cinnamon stick planted on the pear like Excalibur. I suggest you get it out first before devouring the sweet pear confit; otherwise, the ashes would get in the way.
I sliced a small piece of the pâté and brought it slowly into my mouth. Immediately, my shoulders slumped while my eyes rolled back in my head as I sighed in rapture. Its buttery consistency is infinitely far from all things liver I execrate. I stared at the small block balanced on top of syrup-covered gooseberries (?) in amazement.
I then lock in on my next target -- the seared duck liver dotted with pinenuts (?). Here was a fattier piece than the terrine, yet still lean when compared to other seared foie gras, making it equally ambrosial. I alternate between the two, spreading a dash of the red onion marmalade on some bites. I could have another round of this and call it a day. The whole plate was perfect. I think Lolo Dad's makes one of the best foie gras dishes in Manila.
Lolo Dad's signature palate cleanser was a scoop of sorbet (calamansi, this time) on an inverted tea pot cover. Inside the brown pot were some dry ice which emitted a thin smoke making all this redolent of a genie's lamp. Unsurprisingly, the sorbet tasted simple and clean (I wanted more), and prepared my sense of taste for the entrées.
This dish would have been impeccable if it weren't for the corned ox-tongue which I found too rare for my taste. Admittedly, ox-tongue isn't really high up on my list especially when cut thickly such as this. And when laid bare without any sauce to conceal it, it creates an unsettling image that frankly I don't find palatable. Pastel de lengua is the only tongue dish that I enjoy, and it helps that it usually consists of thin slices or dices of ox tongue drenched in white sauce.
The tenderloin and ribeye, on the other hand, were tender and left me wanting. Paired with the soft potatoes, I somehow wished they offered this dish sans the tongue.
The pork belly was so tender and succulent that it just melted in my mouth. The flavor wasn't prominent, albeit when I forked in some rice, I understood why. The arborio rice, which is sort of like an amalgamation of paella and risotto, left such a strong taste, you would need the tamed porcine meat to curb its intensity.
I don't have a predilection for paella except when it involves a generous helping of soccarat or soft-shelled crabs, so I think I'll pass and just have some more of those Kurobuta pork.
The penultimate course I had was remarkable. No one wanted to try my seafood dish, so secretly I was pleased to having this all to myself. The sea bass was cooked well, none of that fishy taste; the blue crab potatoes were simply divine. Words are not enough to convey the need I felt to constantly bring one forkful after another into my eagerly awaiting mouth. And when I doused it with the oyster cream sauce, I literally couldn't get enough of it. Luscious, savory, sweet, salty -- it was a foreplay to what would be my most memorable dessert of that year.