As a writer, part of my job description involves going out of my way to discover new places. I’ve been to quiet corners of the Metro where small restaurants open their doors to me and make me feel right at home with their delicious, heart-warming food; I’ve also been to lavish, upscale dining areas where wave after wave of sinfully decadent dishes deliver a memorable assault on my senses. This time, I bring to you Old Oven Art Café, a hidden nook in Katipunan that is guaranteed to provide you with home-cooked meals and utmost privacy.
Old Oven Art Café traces its beginning to a humble sandwich stall in Mercato. Their very first baby, the Old Oven Cheesesteak Sandwich, became such a hit that the owner, Kay Torres, finally decided to look for a place of her own.
I, for one, am certainly glad that she did.
I’ve seen a lot of beautiful restaurants, but somehow Old Oven Art Café has managed to make itself among one of the biggest standouts in my recent memory. Its interior speaks of rustic, old-world charm; paintings by the Filipino deaf artists, stamp collections (courtesy of Kay’s mother) and various other interesting knick-knacks fill every nook and cranny of the small room. What’s even more amusing about all of this is that plenty of the items you find in the restaurant are for sale—you can take a piece of the café home with you by purchasing a painting, a piece of hand-made jewelry or one of those adorably silly animal caricatures lining the shelves.
For dinner, we were served three of the café’s current best-selling dishes: the famous Old Oven Cheesesteak Sandwich (P165), the Bacon and Cheese Burger (P180) and the Certified U.S. Angus Prime Rib Eye Steak (P595).
Old Oven Cheesesteak Sandwich
One bite of the cheesesteak sandwich was more than enough to convince me that it really was the meal that started everything. The beef is perfectly tender, and the vegetables that adorn the sandwich are complimentary to its overall taste. The real magic, though, manifests itself in how the sauce brings all the elements of the dish together. Because Old Oven makes their own sauces—mayonnaise, ketchup and other basic condiments included—all their dishes have this delicious, distinct taste that you can only find in the café. I recommend this dish as a must-try for all first time patrons.
Bacon and Cheese Burger
The bacon and cheese burger is prepared and served just the way I prefer my burgers—and I was never too fond of burgers, mind you—on the rare days that I do crave for them. The patty is homemade; it is soft, chewy and not too salty. What made me happiest about it was that the cheese was literally overflowing onto my plate. My love for absurd amounts of cheese probably won’t ever make a good food critic out of me, but believe me when I say it contributes greatly to the burger’s lip-smacking goodness.
Certified U.S. Angus Prime Rib Eye Steak
Last but not the least comes my favorite: the steak. Kay is particularly proud of this dish; her source for her Angus rib-eye is the same as that of Makati Shangri-La Hotel’s. The difference manifests in the way the meat is cooked—this dish, as like the rest of Old Oven’s menu, exchanges the glamour of fine dining with the comfort of home-cooked food. “We’re not into fine dining,” she says, “we’re more into soul food.” The steak comes served with homemade risotto (yum, yum, yum), carrots and green beans. The meat is perfectly seasoned, the vegetables are fresh and the risotto is just divine. No complaints about this dish!
Of course, we couldn’t let ourselves go without trying out some desserts. We requested for a Strawberry and Nutella Crepe (custom order; not on the menu) and a Classic French Toast (P125). Again, Old Oven casts its magic wand and uses its special sauce to bring about that distinct taste; the sauce brings out the delicious flavors of the desserts without making things too sweet.
Strawberry and Nutella Crepe
Classic French Toast
Old Oven Café is a joint effort. Everyone comes from a culinary background, so everyone is able to make equally good contributions to the menu and how the restaurant is run in general. The restaurant, despite its space constraints, has become popular among its clientele. Kay shares that they get excellent foot traffic; people reserve the space for meetings and small get-togethers due to the privacy that it offers.
“This has always been my dream,” Kay adds. “I always used to tell myself that one day, I would be able to put up my own place. I want it to be small so I can personally manage it and serve home-made food that is made from scratch. I did everything with the input of my family.”
We’re certainly glad your dream has come true, Kay. We’re more than grateful to you for sharing your blessings with us!