Lola Maria Restaurant
The Legend Villas Chief Operating Officer Ginger King-Villavicencio joined us for lunch, to share to us a little bit about each of the items we were going to try. We tasted 'celebrity dishes,' recipes shared by celebrity friends and tweaked by Chef Michael Martinez to suit the resto's concept. It was a casual and intimate affair, just like having a meal at your favorite aunt or grandma's house -- you know, that tita or lola that cooks the perfect adobo, or the one that knows exactly how you want your sinigang na baboy to be. Lola Maria Restaurant had the feel at home vibe, with that provincial house atmosphere. 'That's how we want people to feel here at Lola Maria,' explained Ginger. While it boasts of rich wooden furnishings and accents, the restaurant is neither grandiose nor ostentatious. Ginger elaborates how the Filipino-ness is also embodied by the flavors of their food. "No scrimping, no shortcuts," she proudly said. It is, simply put, how home good ol' home cooking should be.
"I hope you're all hungry," Ginger said to everyone. I was, but I hoped they would present the different dishes in intervals so we could keep our eating at a good pace. Eight dishes, after all, are a lot to try in one sitting. Ginger assured us of tasting portions -- a Filipino dégustation, if you will -- so we prepared ourselves for a delicious feast.
Vegetable Quiche (Randy Ortiz, fashion designer)
P650 - Family Pack, P850 - Party Pack
We started with the Vegetable Quiche, tiny baked pastry crusts that you can eat with or without a dollop of sour cream. I tried nibbling on them both ways, and found the sour cream to compliment the flaky texture of the quiche excellently. This appetizer is obviously French and not Pinoy, but nevertheless, was a good way to start our degustation.
P155 - a la carte (5 pieces)
Prawn Cakes (Atoy Llave, show car maverick)
P680 - Family Pack, P1,300 - Party Pack
Next up, Prawn Cakes, only we are served smaller portions of it in balls. These little 'prawn balls' are handcrafted: a mix of pork, prawn and egg to hold them together. It's delightfully tender upon bite, and their dipping sauce of hoisin is made from scratch.
P225 - a la carte (6 pieces)
Fish Pinipig (Iza Calzado, actress/host/endorser)
P620 - Family Pack, P1,220 - Party Pack
While the previous dish is more Asian, this next dish is modern Filipino. The Fish Pinipig reinvents the 'fish and chips,' and must I say, lip-smackingly so. The strips of cream dory are covered in pinipig (toasted rice grain) flakes, and dusted with a little cayenne. The dichotomy of textures of the fish fingers tantalized my mouth -- an initial crunch leads to a soft and warm center. The cayenne mayo dip added some zest. You can opt to have a plain garlic mayo dip if you do not like spicy, but the spice level is just mild.
P210 - a la carte (6 pieces)
Cocido (Carol Villavicencio, recipe loaned from Ginger's mother-in-law)
P1,080 - Family Pack, P2,050 - Party Pack
Our first entree was the Cocido -- although not really a 'celebrity' dish, it's remarkably savory that it earns its right to be called a superstar. Ginger shared to everyone that her mom-in-law's cocido is a favorite of Our Awesome Planet blogger Anton Diaz, and that it is her personal favorite, too. I was served a cup of rice -- really good rice, with fluffiness and mildly sweet flavor to match a saucy dish like Cocido. The stewed beef ribs were tender, and the tomato sauce was irresistible. It was also served with a sweet eggplant dip that added more flavor to the richness of the stew. Curbing the carbs? Make this an exception. You can't have this Cocido minus the rice, that would be preposterous!
P360 - a la carte (single serving)
Garlic and Rosemary Rib-eye (Ara Mina, actress)
P650 - a la carte (single serving)
The next celebrity dish was the Garlic and Rosemary Rib-eye. I got the gravy boat and drizzled some of the thick brown sauce into my seared beef. Bits of shiitake mushrooms from the gravy boat plopped into my meat. The portioning was a good for a P650 Rib-eye -- it came with mashed potato on the side, a serving of rice underneath the meat, and tiny slices of carrots. I cut the meat and well, will you look at that -- perfectly pink in the middle to balance the browned and cooked portion.
Ensaymada Pudding (Danica Magpantay, Ford Supermodel grand winner)
P495 - Family Pack, P980 - Party Pack
We took a little breather to take some photos of the restaurant while making some space for dessert. When we got back to our table, a trio of desserts awaited, starting with the Ensaymada Pudding. Christmas may be over, but this dessert tastes so festive and makes me feel giddy inside. This dessert gives me ideas on what to do with leftover ensaymada at home! The crisp day old ensaymada, when attacked with my fork, gives way to a soft middle of custard. The sweetness balanced with the saltiness of the queso de bola shavings whisked me back to December.
P80 - a la carte (single serving)
Ube and Langka Panna Cotta (Sherilyn Reyes-Tan, actress)
P680 - Family Pack, P1,280 - Party Pack
The second dessert marries the Italian with the Pinoy, giving birth to Ube and Langka Panna Cotta. "It's 'gourmet' halo-halo," Ginger enthused. And I agree. You have the light combination of two quintessential halo-halo ingredients - ube and langka - served in a different texture. What you get is a smooth and light dessert, perfect to cleanse your palate.
P120 - a la carte (single serving)
Fried Suman at Tsokolate (Wilma Doesnt, actress/host/model)
P445 - Family Pack, P680 - Party Pack
The last dessert is definitely my favorite among the trio -- perhaps because it's the simplest and most 'homey comfort food' among the three. The Fried Suman at Tsokolate is truly made for Filipino afternoon snacktime. I usually have my suman sa ibos coated with brown or muscovado sugar. Trying it fried and drizzled with tsokolate was a confetti of textures and flavors in my mouth. I thought they had coated the glutinous rice with some kind of breading, but the chef revealed that the suman was fried as-is. It gave a light crispness in every chewy bite. The tsokolate dip sealed the deal.
P155 - a la carte (single serving)
While Lola Maria Restaurant still serves its international fare for their buffet and ala carte menu, its heart and soul is undoubtedly Filipino. Some of the restaurant's long-standing best sellers include Kare-kare, Lechon Kawali, and Brazo de Mercedes -- dishes staple to any Filipino fiesta. And with the introduction of the new celebrity dishes, old patrons of the restaurant can now look forward to tasting new flavors during their business and family events held in The Legend Villas. If you would like to try out these new items the way we did, Lola Maria offers a degustation (P1,350 nett per person, minimum of 5 people). Round up your family or barkada for this, and list and compare your favorite dishes. My personal bets are placed on Iza Calzado's Fish Pinipig, and the humble but oh-so-delicious Fried Suman at Tsokolate by Wilma Doesnt.
Bring the celebrity dishes to your home and to parties
Take away packs available in Family (good for 6-8 persons) and Party (good for 12-15 persons)
Lola Maria Restaurant wants you to also feel at home with their home-style cooking and gracious service right at the comforts of your home with their take-away packs. These eight new dishes are ready for sharing and showcasing for your house gatherings and special events. If an alternative to Chinese fare is what you seek this festive week of the Chinese New Year, then a scrumptious Pinoy degustation awaits you at The Legend Villas. Who knows, these eight dishes might just bring in some luck your way -- after all, eight is an auspicious number. Might as well consider yourself lucky with these 'tasty eights'!