Teresa Dula-Laurel, or "Tita Tix" or "Tikki" as many fondly call her, has been in the business of food for decades -- she manages a catering business, is the founder of Goto King, and in 1989, has set up Mama Rosa, a QC restaurant known for its homey, fuss-free, and comforting Filipino dishes. Late last year, she revived Mama Rosa, and it know resides on the busy food-filled barangay of Kapitolyo. Who is Mama Rosa? She is Rosa Eco Dula, Tix Laurel's mother known for her great homecooking. Her mother's love for food and feeding people is what inspired the entrepreneur to open a restaurant in memory of her mother. "I named my daughter after her," Tix Laurel adds, "she is the one who is really more technically trained than I am, in terms of culinary arts."
Re-opening an old Quezon City favorite from the 90s and relocating it to Pasig presented an opportunity for Mama Rosa: a new breed of diners more openly sharing their zest for eating. Tix herself was musing about social media over lunch, and how she is slowly understanding how this has added another side to the restaurant life. "It's so nice though," she shares, "I still get those very loyal customers--they know the menu well. Natutuwa sila... In fact it's one of the reasons I opened again. When I meet friends and old customers, friends of my children, they say they miss our food already." For old patrons, Mama Rosa version 2.0 is a more streamlined version of its former self, with upgrades on flavor combinations and recipes on best-selling dishes. New dishes here do not veer away from the Mama Rosa brand of food -- simple and honest cooking that one never tires of enjoying. "Like for the salads, we added some that have Japanese inspired preparations. We keep it classic, but have innovations -- not something fusion but more like introducing new techniques or adding new ingredients."
If its comforting breakfast food you seek, you should order their Longganisa Platter (P195) and order rice on the side -- their classic Bagoong Rice (P180) was a great partner. The longganisa platter lets you choose a longganisa hailing from different regions in the country: Vigan, Alaminos, Lukban, Cabanatuan, Guinobatan, Cebu; these are also available to bring home, uncooked, by the dozen or kilo. Our platter of Guinobatan longganisa from Albay, was something new to me -- this type of longganisa is hand-chopped rather than processed through a meat grinder, and the cubes of fat mixed with the meat gave me more reasons to go back for more rice. If you like spicy, salty, and garlicky longganisa, this one's a must-try.
Their Kinilaw na Isda (280) is an updated version of the old Mama Rosa kinilaw. They used to have only one variant available and now, there are three kinds of kinilaw na tuna marinated in vinegar, chillies, onions and pepper. Its first and original (a personal favorite) is with green mango and coconut cream, while another version has slices of salted duck's egg, tomatoes, and black beans, making it very playful in texture; their third kinilaw is with cucumber, radish, and kamias (bilimbi). You may order one variant at full portion for the same price.
All soups at Mama Rosa are carried from the old menu, like their hot and comforting thick Monggo Soup (P140). Like a warm hug in a bowl, the soup of mung beans is sauteed in shrimps and tinapa, with eggplants, and ampalaya fruit and leaves, and comes topped with chicharon. I grew up with this soup and so there was much joy in plopping spoonfuls of the munggo into my rice, and mixing everything.
For the salads, Mama Rosa retains two old favorites: Manga Aligue (P210) using their poular Neptuna sauce and topped with crispy shrimps and coriander; and Pako at Suha Salad (P225), a refreshing vegetarian salad of fiddlehead fern combined with chunks of pomelo, julienned jicama (singkamas), and heart of palm. Lending a lipsmacking flavor is a drizzle of the Mama Rosa Honey-Kalamansi-Wasabi dressing--sweet, salty, tart, and a little spicy.
Mama Rosa sure has a knack for blending flavors in their sauces and dips, and this still holds true with their grilled Suaje Kebob (P280) -- an order that's deceptively plain and simple, but once tasted, will easily be demolished, skewer upon skewer of shrimp from crispy head to tail. The secret is in the dipping sauce: a mix of honey, kalamansi, wasabi, coriander, and other magical flavors that gives your palate bursts of sweet, tang, spice, and salty.
Tulingan (skipjack/bullet tuna) is one of those fish most Filipinos have eaten at home rather than in restaurants, and is usually cooked salted and with kamias (bilimbi), or with vegetables in coconut milk (gata). Here at Mama Rosa, they prepare Sinaing na Tulingan in Olive Oil (P160), which is new on the menu. The fish is slow-cooked in olive oil with dried kamias and capers, then garnished with olives and finger chilis. They serve it with an excellent creamy kamias sauce, that I imagine will go well with any fried fish.
For dessert, Mama Rosa has a devoted fan base for their silky-smooth Leche Flan (P85) infused with limon de China and the Coconut Panna Cotta (P120) -- if you noticed they have a lot of gata (coconut cream) based dishes on their menu, it's because Mama Rosa herself was a Bicolana. And bringing more flavors of the Bicol Region to the restaurant is the famous Coconut Ice Cream from Albay, available in assorted flavors like Sili, Calamansi, Tinutungan (toasted rice), and Gabi (taro). It's difficult to decide what my favorite is among the three, as it's very easy to please me with ice cream, all the more with gata; Sili ice cream has a strong following as it is always a must-try when one is in Albay. A spoonful of it is creamy and sweet at first, then it slaps your mouth with delicious heat, and suddenly it becomes addicting to eat, especially for the spicy lovers. The Tinutungan had a pleasant smokey finish that you won't usually taste in your ice cream, while Calamansi, which usually we enjoy as an icy treat like sorbet, becomes both creamy and refreshing on the palate, making for a great palate cleanser after your meal.
Mama Rosa is located at 9 East Capitol Drive, Barangay Kapitolyo, Pasig. The restaurant is open daily from 11am to 10:30pm. Like Mama Rosa on Facebook ("MAMA ROSA Restaurant") and follow on Instagram (@mama.rosa.manila).