At the Tomas Morato area of Quezon City stands Victorino's, a house converted into a restaurant that for three years has been feeding everyone Ilocano cuisine and heirloom recipes. This Ilocos-centric establishment is owned by DV Savellano, an Ilocano politician and husband to actress Dina Bonnevie; to serve some sweetness in the restaurant, they offer the cakes and pastries menu of pastry chef Heny Sison. It still feels like a house inside Victorino's -- it's welcoming, with traditional Filipino touches but not too old fashioned to feel stuffy and fancy. It's like you're being invited to feast at your favorite lola's house, and she's been cooking all day some of your favorite meals when you were a child.
If we're talking about Ilocano food, my most comforting picks for sure are the fried pork dishes -- longganisa and bagnet. The restaurant's Longganisa Platter (P360)
gathers different kinds of longganisa paired with sukang Ilocos; the menu says this is an appetizer, but I would in a heartbeat pair it with rice and call it an entree. Their Bagnet (P330) is as good as it gets, the Ilocos rendition of lechon kawali that is extra awesome. Crisp, juicy, and meaty, it absolutely merits spoonfuls of rice for starch and a douse of vinegar to cut the fat. Their bagnet's also available in thinner strips for appetizer; get the Bagnet Chips (P275) for bacon-cut happiness. For those who can't get enough of both bagnet and longganisa, get the pork loaded Ilocos Best (P550) which combines both deep fried meaty dishes in one platter.
Another Ilocano staple is the pinakbet -- the vegetable loaded one-pot meal cooked in bagoong. It is one of the dishes I enjoyed earlier on, my Ilocano grandfather introducing me to a then unusual assortment of local vegetables most often disliked by children. It was through this dish that I learned to love ampalaya, and so Victorino's Pinakbet ala Nana Jean (P260) is very much stuff of comfort food for my tummy. The slow cooked eggplant, ampalaya, camote, string beans, all come together with bagoong isda and chunks of bagnet. A squeeze of calamansi and lots of rice rounds everything up well.
Don't miss out on Victorino's sinigang -- while the bagnet, longganisa and pinakbet are down home good, the Sinigang nga Bangus ti Bayabas (P390) was undeniably the scene-stealer of our lunch. It is crave worthy, a dish that will lure me into a long road trip to Quezon City, back into the restaurant. I am incredibly obsessed with sinigang broth that doesn't deny of sourness -- the pucker up kind of acidity that this Filipino staple should deliver. The restaurant does not disappoint with their version of bangus belly sinigang, the fatty fish belly floating in cloudy broth rich with ripe guava puree. It's a little creamy and absolutely tart, and I yearn to have more and more of it with rice.
The dessert lineup of Heny Sison is tempting -- the pastry chef offers her specialty cakes (over a dozen on the menu!), homemade breads like ensaimada, and other classic sweets like sylvannas, yema, and leche flan. It's a dizzying amount of sweet offerings to choose from for a first timer, but we opted for Mango Chocolate Torte (P250/slice) as this one was the must-try according to the menu. The whole cake is a towering beauty, wrapped in white frosting, adorned with mango balls, and drizzled with white chocolate. A slice will fill you well, a dessert fix of thick cashew meringue, a thin layer of bittersweet chocolate, and mango mousse. Crunchy meets soft, and sweetness comes in fruity and creamy forms.
Recalling how we indulged in our lunch that day--my appetite demanding more servings of rice, while noises from my companions were chatty in between laughs and hungry slurps of sinigang--I realize how food made us feel very much at home in Victorino's. If you find yourself in Quezon City, this is the place to be for llocano-Filipino comfort food.
Victorino's Restaurant is located at 114 Scout Rallos corner 11th Jamboree, Quezon City; the restaurant is open daily from 7am to 10pm. Follow Victorino's on Instagram: @victorinos_restaurant.