With Manila’s traffic ridden streets and crowded malls, finding a quiet place to spend time with your friends or loved one seems almost impossible. Thankfully a humble restaurant in Paranaque provides its customers just enough privacy and excellent dishes that make each special event even more meaningful.
In Twenty One Plates, you’re assured quality time and tastes with loved ones at prices more affordable than popular spots in Metro Manila areas. Upon entering this restaurant, customers are led to a small and cozy room. The space we were given was perfect for a reunion among a few friends or for that big date where one must impress. There were only two tables: one enough for four, the other for a couple.
As its name implies, Twenty One Plates includes 21 dishes that make you rethink—or rather ‘re-taste’ what you normally eat at home. Local favorites such as adobo, kaldereta, and laing are cooked in ways that challenge yet please the taste buds. The menu provides a sufficient guide to each dish, describing the ingredients used and how each dish is distinct from your mother’s or favourite restaurant’s cooking. Be careful when reading through the menu; I was almost tempted to order everything on it.
We began the dinner with three appetizers: The Classic Caesar (P250), Fried Feta (P180), and Crispy Chicken Skin and Bleu Cheese (P220). The Caesar salad stood out from other establishments, using an egg-based dressing and tasting more like actual vegetables, striking a healthy balance between the sauce and the greens.
The Fried Feta was equally excellent; you can’t go wrong with an entire square of Greek cheese heated in olive oil. If the four pieces of bread are already finished, cheese lovers will have no problem eating the feta by itself.
Crispy Chicken Skin and Bleu Cheese
The incredible cheese journey continued with the Crispy Chicken Skin dipped in Bleu Cheese. Despite the fact I was eating chicken skin, it did not feel as unhealthy as dipping it in vinegar. The restaurant also managed to make a staple college street food taste and appear classy.
Pair your dinner with wine
To uplift the flavors of these appetizers and the rest of the meal, we paired the dinner with a glass of Banrock Station Shiraz and Colombelle White. Dinners can be made extra special here by ordering a glass of wine, which is larger than the regular wine glass, for just between P160 to P280. The Colombelle wine was the perfect pair to the cheese dishes while the red shiraz complemented the Kimchi Rolls (P200). The latter may seem like an odd combination, but this restaurant begs you to explore what you wouldn’t try and eat together on a normal basis.
The Kimchi Rolls were not only a generous serving of eight pieces. The popular Korean food managed to fuse a sushi influence from the Japanese, including rice with the kimchi vegetables inside the roll itself. It was a truly Asian gastronomic experience, with the red paste spice intensifying each bite.
I was pleasantly surprised by the speed of the service and how the main courses were properly timed in serving after we finished the appetizers. I started chomping on the Pork Souvlaki (P350), which came with pita bread, grilled cucumbers and tomatoes, and an interesting dip made of yoghurt and cucumbers. The dip had just the right taste and was the perfect partner to the pita and vegetables. Unlike other kebab establishments, the vegetables became a main part of the meal.
What I couldn’t wait to taste was the Laing Lasagna (P290). The sound of the dish alone is enough to get any mouth curious. The saying ‘expect the unexpected’ came to life as my mouth bit into pasta sheets that were sweet yet spicy thanks to the laing. The taste explosion didn’t stop there—anchovies were included in between to provide a satisfying savory flavor. Overall, the lasagna managed to be distinctively Pinoy in flavor—without coming off like ‘spa-ketchup.’
A meal isn’t complete without rice and ulam, and Bo's Kaldereta (P295) with white fluffy rice was the perfect conclusion to the main course. The beef was soft enough for chewing and the use of coconut milk gave it a distinct flavor. Unlike home cooked kaldereta, the saltiness of the tomato and beef did not overpower. I dare say that this dish is tied with my mother’s kaldereta.
To cap off the night, we indulged our sweet tooth with Twenty One Plates’ Banana Split (P280). It’s every kid and soon-to-be-diabetic’s sugar wonderland, providing generous servings of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla scoops topped with whipped cream, thick chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. Making this decadent dessert even more sinful are the oatmeal cookies hidden amidst the cream.
Should you end up along the stretch of Aguirre Avenue, be sure to stop by Twenty One plates and start sampling all 21 of their offerings. I’ve only just begun and will surely come back to try the rest.