kabila. the other side of what, we wonder

In eating in manila on March 16, 2013 at 5:57 pm

kabila lumpia

each time i’m faced with filipino food gone upscale, i tend to problematize and ovethink. take this lumpia from kabila (p275), the alternate menu at the m cafe. the egg wrapper the subject of much care. was it delicious? yes. the ubod perfectly seasoned and the side of ground peanuts and sugar the perfect condiment. maybe the garlic on the side could have been more generous (but more on that later). but all in all, it was very good.

but was it worth P275? i suppose that’s really up for debate. but if you take in the overall dining quality and given that this is a museum restaurant and a number of the clientele are foreign, then there’s a lot to justify this concept of fancifying filipino food a bit. and the idea worked great with their kabila pancit (P375)

kabila pancit

this is a loaded pancit – see that chunk of bagnet up there – that seems to take its inspiration from quezon’s pancit habhab. very tasty. a most satisfying dish although i’m not 100% sure there isn’t any msg in there to, um, help it along the way. sadly though, the bagnet was disappointing. it was tough and chewy rather than crisp. fix that and this becomes an excellent dish.

the side of vinegar though could be a little more generous. like the garlic. but it’s not like kabila is being stingy. if you ask for more, they’ll give it. it’s just that the initial portion should be bigger so you don’t have to feel like you have to scrimp. and diners might be shy to ask. it’s vinegar and garlic, surely the restaurant can be generous with that.

the least satisfying dish was the “mpanada” – a version of the popular and utterly delicious ilocos empanada (P195).

kabila empanada

one look and it’s easy to see where this dish doesn’t quite make it. that crust. it says “i’m a chicken pie” more than ilocos empanada. it’s heavy and thick and clunky whereas one of the beauties of the original is that crust is light and thin and crisp. right now i can’t think of anything to justify this decision. the filling was a little too modest for our taste. modest meaning little. we know that portion sizes tend to get smaller the higher you get in the fine dining scale, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of texture or flavor. with this one, we lost the gooey egg, the crunch of the papaya. that chili rock salt on the side though was nice (but you know what we have to say about that tiny vessel of vinegar).

oh, they had a kamias and calamansi shake that was terrific!

kabila drink

sweet and tart, the perfect accompaniment to fatty food.

so overall, kabila is worth another visit. on the whole i think they’re on to something conceptually and there are other dishes on the menu that are worth a look. we’re cheering kabila on. given that the traditional western global culinary world is finally giving us a look, a restaurant like this can do much to champion our cuisine.


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