One thing challenging about city life is finding a restaurant that serves old-fashioned home cooking. When you find one, treat it like a gold mine especially if just like me the only thing you can cook is anything fried or the only thing you can be proud of is that you can cook rice with a rice cooker quite well. I am not sure if that is even counted. So I consider myself very lucky to have found a real food treasure in Café Via Mare. I think you cannot get any more classic than the over thirty years of serving ultimate Filipino comfort food to millions both locals and tourists.
The three things I look for in everyday food are excellent taste, quality ingredients and more importantly, reasonable prices. All three are present in the different dishes of Café Via Mare. Most notable restaurants are expectedly filled up during lunch and dinner, but Via Mare also prides itself by also being known as the go-to restaurant for merienda. Who can say no to a plate of Bibingka (P115 with Laguna Cheese and salted duck egg; P138 with Laguna Cheese and queso de bola) or Pancit Luglog (P195)? If you are not so hungry, then maybe one serving of Palitaw (P45) will do? Maybe not, because it is so addicting you’d always want more.
You can swing by Via Mare for breakfast, or as mentioned, an afternoon snack or quick dinner. And for those times you want to stay in and enjoy your meal at the comfort of your home, you can always get food for take-out. The main point is each time, you leave the place happy. Now you might think they’d stop at just serving the usual -- after all, patrons keep coming back -- but instead, they came up with some more new dishes to love.
I think that the new bunch of Via Mare rice specialties is inspired by Filipinos' love for rice. Some restaurants capitalize on this, and they are doing very well. Via Mare’s version of Tuyo Fried Rice (P135) is alright, but that is coming from someone who is not a big fan of tuyo. My main comment is that there was too much tuyo in that big bowl, so if you are a tuyo fanatic then by all means include this in your must try.
Tuyo Fried Rice
The more provincial the taste or the closer the dish tastes like to what my parents and grandparents back home would put together, then the more I like it. That is why even if it is not as authentic as I want it to be, the big bowl of Laswa (P190) consisting of squash, beans, okra, eggplant and leafy green vegetables thrown in with shrimps and clams in earthy vegetable broth is heaven for me. I can feel the care from home in every sip of the soup and in every piece of seafood.
And because I like pairing soup with 'dry' dishes, I ordered the Pinalutong na Tilapia (P270). Again, this is such a treat for me, tilapia being one of my favorite fishes. It is deep-fried to a golden crisp just like the way I like it. It is also served with soy-calamansi dip and sisig sauce. The first one I am accustomed to while the second one is something I tried for the first time and worked to my liking.
Pinalutong na Tilapia
The biggest winner among the newbies is the Sun-dried Crispy Pata (P280). This take on a favorite - sun-dried beef sirloin, a tasty and delicious alternative to the traditional Filipino fare – is so much fun to eat. We had to stop ourselves from ordering more.
Sun-dried Crispy Pata
The thing about Café Via Mare is that when you are not in the restaurant, you crave for their specialties in your head, and when already in the restaurant you suddenly feel a fiesta vibe that you just let loose and allow the food take over you. And with all the nostalgic emotions the wonderful food brings with each bite, you always end up still wanting for more.