Believe me, it wasn’t intentional. We did not plan to eat pig-out at a Pinoy restaurant on a holiday in honor of Ninoy Aquino’s assassination some 26 years back. But it was not that bad after all.
It has been half a decade since we last dined at one of Cabalen’s branches in a mall. I admit that my parents are the ones who prefer it just as they like other food places that offer Filipino cuisine. I and my wife are not fond of going out just to eat the same food that we have at our own dining table at home. In short, we’re not fan of home-style cooking, sorry. But I have high regard with those establishments that made efforts in putting Filipino cuisine upfront. My wife and I with our friends enjoy CLASSIC CUISINE PHILIPPINES or C2 and CHEF LAUDICO’S BISTRO FILIPINO. Both of these restos offer Pinoy food as gourmet and with nice twists and taste. And did I tell you that CAFE ADRIATICO’s Lola Ising’s adobo and Lolo’s pancit canton binondo are to-die for?
We could have eaten our brunch last Friday, August 21 at a pizza and pasta resto, or a fastfood perhaps, but for no particular reason, our feet were drawn to Cabalen’s all-day-buffet and there was no regret.
My starters were a bowl of beef stock with corn, fried crispy kangkong with mayo dip, some mango and tomato salsa with bagoong and a slice of red salted egg, some onion rings and pork and tofu a.k.a. tokwa’t baboy…
Not bad actually. Even in Kamayan whenever we dine at Dad’s Ultimate Buffet that includes Saisaki and, yes, Kamayan, I do not miss to munch on those cripsy kangkong. I also liked Cabalen’s mango-tomato-bagoong salsa. The green mangoes were chopped to bits, which for me was the best rather than having unriped mangoes in chunks.
One of the Pinoy dishes I cannot resist is Kare-kare or stewed beef in peanut sauce with bagoong (again). I like the peanut buttery sauce and the VEGGIES : string beans and egg plants, cooked with ox tripe and ox tail …- Good Heavens, I am salivating now as I write this!
My second plate had Pampanga’s bests — from tocino ( I hope they don’t use salt peter), longganisa and atchara or pickled papaya. I had Kare-kare too, and of course garlic rice. I like the distinct taste of Cabalen’s longganisa, it’s so flavorful. Isn’t it obvious that I like local version of sausages? lol. From Vigan’s to Lucban’s, I like garlicky longganisa paired with tomato salsa! Man, I can eat it any time of the day!
My wife’s plate had similar dishes from Cabalen’s buffet spread except she sampled their fried chicken which I avoided for I had eaten too many of them over the past weeks.
For our desserts, Gabby, Tina and I tried Cabalen’s guinataan and halo-halo. What I like about the minimal dessert spread was the presence of a huge bottle of coconut milk or kakang-gata. It’s actually an ingredient of guinumis – local cold sweet treat of crushed ice with coco milk, gulaman and pininig or rice crispies. You can also make your own guinumis from the spread at Cabalen.
Tina suggested we put coconut milk over halo-halo instead of the usual evaporated milk. As an obedient husband and a food enthusiast, I surrendered to her craving. She was right; halo halo’s better with coco milk as we enjoyed it! We just added syrup to taste.
The guinataan was also great with those strips of jackfruit and sweetened bananas and generous amounts of small balls of tapioca.
Everything tasted OK except for the red gulaman of the halo-halo. It tasted like soap suds for goodness sake! I immediately called the attention of the waited and told him of our concern. He immediately responded by removing the square bowl of red gulaman from the spread and I noticed he reported the incident to his manager. We were in a hurry as we already paid our bills so we did not spend time bringing the matter to the manager. I appreciated the move of the wait staff.
We did not plan to eat at Cabalen, but nevertheless, we enjoyed it. What we intently did last holiday was honoring Ninoy and Cory’s ideations and contributions to Philippine democracy by simply wearing yellow that day.
Cabalen’s Eat All You Can P298 per adult; half price for kids; located at most malls in the Metro.
But wait! While I was getting my food from the spread, I noticed a distinctly Kapampangan dish that I learned from Kuya Kim Atienza’s report in TV Patrol World ( a local news ) that this was one of Ninoy Aquino’s favorites…
Do you eat KAMARO or cricket ? No offense to all Kapampangan, but I don’t. I call myself a food enthusiast but not a dare-devil and an adventurous as you are.
To each his own.