The Crescent Moon Café: A Touching Remembrance

The Crescent Moon Cafe


Chicken Curry, Labong Vegetable Dish, Fish Fillet with Sweet Chili Sauce and Suman with Mango

As a writer, it’s always my goal to find the story behind an event, and this case, uncover the story behind good food. Everyone loves a story. I may praise how perfectly crisp the pastry melted in my mouth, but without a story, it will end up like “just another” food feature.

Well, this ain’t just a food feature. Let me tell you a story --- more than 14 years ago, there lived a lovely couple in Antipolo. The wife is a potter while the husband is a successful lawyer who’s also a fine cook. The couple lived in a haven full of trees and flowing ponds, and because of its beauty, they decided to put up an open-air restaurant. With the little money they had and with the help of their relatives, they put up a modest restaurant in harmony with nature.

From a distance, the Crescent Moon Café looks like a Japanese house.

After lunch, don’t scamper off. Try exploring the garden.

The days and weeks rolled by and the husband would cook in between his legal profession. The wife meanwhile continued to make lovely pottery which were distributed to major hotels in Manila.

One day, the inevitable happened. The husband fell seriously ill and had to stay at home. The wife continued her craft as a potter, while tending to her husband’s needs.  They hired a midwife to help the husband with his dialysis treatments and assist him in his cooking. Despite continuous medical treatments, the husband’s condition worsened and eventually, he died, leaving the restaurant to his wife and daughters.

That was more than 14 years ago... The restaurant continues to live on as a remembrance of a dearly departed. The midwife, Ms. Rose Bacayo, is now the resident cook. She picked up the late husband’s cooking style.  The wife is Lanelle Abueva-Fernando, the niece of National Artist for Sculpture, Napoleon Abueva, and daughter of former University of the Philippines President Jose Abueva.

Large 12-year old Koi fishes greet customers

Crescent Moon Café also sells unique pottery and offers pottery lessons

This is the story of The Crescent Moon Cafe, a culinary gem of Antipolo and the first in the Philippines to combine pottery and food under one roof.  They started this format way before Ugu Bigyan in Tiaong, Quezon. Furthermore, unlike most commercialized food establishments, this one’s built with familial love.

The garden restaurant follows a non-set menu --- just like home, you’ll find out what’s cooking once it has been served on your table. You can have a dining experience here for P350/person during weekdays, and P500/person during weekends. It mainly accepts reservations and in some cases, accepts walk-ins. Every day, there’s always something new being offered.  The restaurant sources its food supply from four major markets near the area. The food is guaranteed fresh because it is cooked on the spot.

Screen walls separate you from the restaurant’s garden

Some of the pottery being sold in the garden restaurant

Artwork can be found in every nook and cranny of this place

Our host Ms. Lanelle has been a very pleasant lunch companion. We shared food together as she introduces every dish being served on the table.  Crescent Moon Café is popularly known for its alagaw (fragrant premna) appetizer, a lot of food bloggers find this appetizer peculiar. The leaves serve as wrapper wherein you can put  in all 8 ingredients (cooked coconut gratings, diced green mango, sliced green chili, dried shrimps, and etc.) and top it off with this sweet sauce made mainly of panutsa (coco honey).

Make your own appetizer with a carousel of fresh ingredients

The alagaw leaf looks like a heart with confetti topped on it.

After appetizer, we had warm bowls of pumpkin soup enlivened with coconut meat. The delicious and cream-like soup is wonderfully comforting. I relish every spoonful that I realize I almost forgot to take a proper photo of the soup! I guarantee, it’s something your kids will love.

The pumpkin soup’s halfway state is already a testament of its deliciousness.

For our main meal we had a plate of steaming rice teamed with sweet and sour pork, and squid on mango coconut sauce. For veggies, we had a plate of braised water spinach with tofu.  We also had creamy carbonara.

The sweet and sour pork is delicious; it was the kind of dish you’d want to use your hands with as you separate the flesh from the bone.  The squid on mango coconut cream is savory. It was my first time to try squid dish cooked this way -- most of the time it’s adobo. The sauce is creamy and sweet and I could almost lick the plate dry.

The squid dish’s colors remind me of pizza.

Topped with sesame seeds, the braised water spinach with tofu is so savory.

Fresh pineapples make this sweet and sour pork yummy.

The braised water spinach with tofu is a favorite -- I am not a tofu lover but this kind of dish is going to convert me into one.  The carbonara, meanwhile, is worth praising. Topped with breaded cream dory, the pasta is bathed with fresh basil leaves. The fresh fish was cooked perfectly, soft without the fishy smell. So deliciously fragrant, the dish made me actually consume the whole plate.

For refreshments, we had some lemon grass tea which I find naturally refreshing. Unlike the ones that came in teabags, this one tastes so real. It had lemon slices in it but it wasn’t too tangy to make your face scrunch up.

Gotta love this creamy carbonara

Of course your trip to Antipolo will not be complete without Crescent Moon Café’s signature suman (boiled glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves) and ripe mango. The sweet suman is paired with mango which was a bit sour. I think this helped neutralize the suman’s sweetness. In case you’ve filled your tummy to the brim, you might want to try their hot brewed coffee. That’ll help with the digestion.

Coincidentally, the mango’s sliced like a crescent moon

Aid digestion with this warm brewed coffee with milk

Overall, I had a wonderful dining experience at Crescent Moon Café. In this garden of a restaurant, time stood still. This is something not commonly experienced in a fast food joint that pushes you to eat quickly and leave for the next customer. In here, I was able to savor a full meal with my family and friends. Definitely a must try!


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