Where are you headed for lunch? "Diyan lang Sa Kanto," may seem like an unlikely response from a young professional working at the heart of Ortigas Center. But then again, we are all saving up these days, so you actually follow this person and find out which street corner he is referring to. I can imagine your surprise when that same person walks inside the posh The Podium Mall.
I think it is time to let you in on a secret. If you go to one of the hidden corners of the ground floor of the mall, you will find a gem of a restaurant that goes easy on your pockets. The high ceiling and the classy interiors could fool one into thinking that this is a place very far from your kanto food stop. But with a menu that lists street food, it speaks volumes of how it lives up to its name – Sa Kanto.
I arrive late for my lunch with my friend Chi. As soon as I sit down, she gives me a rundown of the things she ordered for us and added “They have really good service here.” It was both our first time, so I take note of that while jumping right into catching up with her.
We only planned for a quick meal since she has to go back to work, and I have a meeting to catch. The three viands we ordered were laid out in the table together, just the way we like it. As we alternately pick on each specialty, I get a sense of how this whole experience really feels like eating in a small corner food shop, but with a much better ambiance.
Our favorite was the Baked Tilapia (P290). The St. Peter’s Fish was baked perfectly, plus the green mango salsa provided enough flavors. One proof of it is the fact that the soy sauce was barely touched -- there was really no need for it anyway. I poured it out of habit once or twice. But best of all, this dish came with a side of very delicious and generous serving of laing that it could already count for a separate order. Actually, they have big servings, so if you are scrimping on your meal allowance you can order just one viand to share.
I was also happy with my personal pick of Ginataang Hipon (P450). First off, I like it that they followed my request to make it not so spicy. Second and more importantly, the creamy coconut sauce was cleverly served with green leafy vegetables that non-vegetarian me did not mind finishing off the entire plate.
Dad’s Pork Adobo
Since I was on a diet, Chi was left to give a verdict on the Dad’s Pork Adobo (P310). I was impressed with the add-ons of mango strips topped with crispy flakes that I nearly cheated, but stopped myself and instead promised I will go back to get a taste of that. Well, this version of adobo passed with flying colors. It is best to eat it together with the mango strips and the crispy flakes to really appreciate the twist to the usual adobo.
The whole time we were eating I noticed that the service is indeed effortlessly excellent. The entire service screw was attentive. No one was absentmindedly staring into space or talking to each other even if there were more of them than the patrons. We had only one full hour of lunch, and not a minute of our time was wasted because even the processing of the bill and the payment were both fast.
The restaurant was only half full when we were there which I like, because I hate crowded lunch places. But after experiencing the sumptuous but affordable lunch we just had and the eternally smiling service crew, I think this place should be a favorite of every single yuppie on a budget.