Not your usual Filipino fare
Filipino cuisine is more than just Cebu lechon, crispy pata and adobo
Based on the Filipino restaurants in Singapore, I used to think Filipino cuisine is all about Cebu lechon, crispy pata and adobo.
That got thrown out of the window after I came across Abe in Manila a decade ago.
It opened my eyes and palate, and it made me think deeper about food from this country of more than 7,000 islands.
The Philippines has native flavours: the sour Sinigang soup and the lechon, which in my opinion is better than the Spanish version.
It also adapted from the Chinese, in particular Fujian cuisine, and the fried and roast meat culture from America.
There have also been a hint of influences from old Indonesia. Think kare-kare, a curry-looking meat stew which tastes similar to an unspiced peanut cream sauce.
If you think you've seen and eaten it all just because you gorged up in the little eateries at Lucky Plaza and Joo Chiat, wait till you eat at Abe.
This restaurant serves up authentic Filipino fare and conjures up new renditions based on their culinary culture. It will make you cock your head and go, "Wow, I never knew."
Abe Restaurant is an old name in good chow in the Philippine capital and remains so. If you don't book ahead, be prepared to wait an hour for a table - like I did recently.
The restaurant sits in the lifestyle lizard's capital of Serendra.DELICIOUS: Claude’s Dream dessert.
Its menu is nicely curated and each dish has a good story behind it.
For example, the dessert Claude's Dream created by chef and artist Claude Tayag. He was friends with Mr Larry Cruz who opened the restaurant in memory of his father, artist-writer-foodie E. Aguilar "Abe" Cruz.
So, how's the food?
DELICIOUS: The sinfully crisp Lechon Cubano.
You cannot miss the Lechon Cubano (450 pesos or S$13). Chunks of fatty pork are boiled till soft before they are roasted till the skin becomes sinfully crisp. The meat is served with a pickle salad and savoury sauce.
And if you think you've tried all manners of kangkong, then the Gising Gising (265 pesos) will make you go, "Why didn't anyone else think of this?"
The stem of the vegetable is cut into small bits and tossed in coconut milk, bagoong (shrimp paste) and chilli.
DELICIOUS: Paco Fern Tomato Salad With Salted Egg.
I was very taken by the Paco Fern Tomato Salad With Salted Egg (155 pesos). It was refreshing and sweetly crunchy with a tangy sauce, with the salted egg giving it a nice twist.
The sour Bangus Sinigang (195 pesos) soup had one of the loveliest accents I've ever come across. The restaurant used milkfish and it came flavoured with guava which lent a moreish, fruity accent to the soup.
Another national dish, Sisig (195 pesos), is a classic at this restaurant. The chopped-and-fried pig head bits were cooked with onion, lime and chilli. Place some of that over the Bamboo Rice (275 pesos) and you get old school Filipino food on a plate.
The style of desserts there however was not my cup of tea.
But if you are curious, go for the national ice kachang or Halo Halo (155 pesos) - taro ice cream served with bits of fruits, custard, jelly and tuber.
Or pay homage to Claude's Dream (140 pesos), a chendol-inspired green jelly sitting over ice cream and sweet coconut flesh.
Now you can say goodbye to the old lechon and adobo mentality you've always had about Filipino food.
Mcarthur Avenue, Bonifacio Global, Taguig, 1630 Metro Manila, Philippines
Tel: +63 2 856 0526