“Expect to laugh a little and enjoy yourself,” says Maricar Aguila, owner and part-time chef of Gayuma Ni Maria. If you meet this charming woman, you get to know more about her restaurant – they're both sweet and just a little bit naughty and silly on the edges; never uptight, always warm.
If Gayuma sounds very familiar to you, then maybe you've eaten at the very first Gayuma restaurant, back when it was located at Esteban Abada. The establishment unfortunately burned down, and they re-opened on the same street, only to close shop once more. The roadwork was taking forever to complete, and it took a toll on their restaurant's operations and sales. Fast forward to this year, Gayuma is now Gayuma Ni Maria, situated in V. Luna Extension, Quezon City.
Former patrons of Gayuma will find home in Gayuma ni Maria. It still has that feminine, flirty charm meshed with sprinkles of shabby chic and magic. Maricar points out the painted details on the wall, proudly telling us that she hand-painted the artwork herself.
Al fresco dining on the first floor, more space on the second floor
Flirty, fun details
If you're into love potions, magic and spells, you will definitely be entertained at Gayuma Ni Maria. You can leaf through their books while you wait for your food to be served, or challenge friends to a board game (free use for a minimum purchase of P350). As for me, I walked around the restaurant, reading the different spells written on their walls -- how a red candle can get inert romance moving towards the altar, how sand can help a loved one that cannot let go of a past relationship, how fire can obtain love from a person. The restaurant also has an in-house fortune teller if you fancy yourself some palm reading and whatnot. Gayuma ni Maria also has a little nook where they sell 'naughty or nice' items, different goodies and treats for the home or for a fun bridal shower with the ladies. On the second floor, a wall is lined up with clothes, shoes and bags -- some vintage, some brand new -- all for sale.
Busy yourself with board games and books while you wait for your food
A Gastronomic Love Affair
The Gayuma experience starts upon ordering. Their printed menu, simple in presentation on laminated white paper, shows you that they like to be fun and flirty with their food. "If you're too formal and too stiff, this is not the place for you," Maricar says. Good thing I'm neither of the two, and was tickled with delight to read descriptions of their food. You can start your Gayuma love story with Attraction, teasers and starters to whet the appetite. We were served a couple -- He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (P80) and Kala Ni Mare (P120).
He Loves Me Not
Kala Ni Mare
Both appetizers are crunchy and went well with the dips. He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not are squash florets served tempura-style, made zestier with a coating of their secret sauce. Kala Mi Mare is your staple calamares appetizer, a simple palate pleaser that had sweet dipping sauce.
If you're up for it, you might want to swing by the resto for a Fling - savory, quickie treats good for merienda or for a light meal. Cute in color was the Lumpiang Excited (P90), two pieces of lumpiang ubod, tickled pink. Their sauce is different -- sweeter than the usual peanut sauce variety -- it actually is almost like drizzling condensed milk on the lumpia. It makes their fresh lumpia version pretty unique.
Chinoy in 7th Heaven
And now, we move on to the main course, or, in Gayuma Ni Maria's case, Commitment. We got to sample Chinoy in 7th Heaven (P240), an old favorite back in the Gayuma days. On the plate is a big serving of fried chicken spiced with different Chinese herbs. The taro fries included compliment the fried chicken, but what shines in this dish is their special rice mix. The rice is browned with some spices, a balance of sweet and salty, that eating it alone is a sure treat.
Rock Me Baby!
Another main dish to devour is Rock Me Baby! (P195), a steal for a generously portioned meal that costs less than 200 Pesos. The barbecued pork ribs is slathered with a sweet sauce, which was a surprise as its angry-red color deceives it to be spicy hot. The slab of meat is served with either rice or mashed potato and a siding of mixed veggies. While I prefer my ribs to be less sweet and have more peppery kick in them, I'm not surprised this is a best seller, as the Filipino palate leans to favor the sweet flavors.
Size Doesn't Matter
My favorite Commitment dish would definitely have to be Size Doesn't Matter (P165), as the dish proves its name to be right. Not too many restaurants serve game, and at reasonable prices at that. For less than 200 Pesos again, you have an entire meal at Gayuma Ni Maria. The pugo (quail) is so flavorful, that deboning the meat is worth the effort. The meat is like refried chicken adobo, only much tastier -- a lip-smacking zesty treat. I found myself pairing every forkful of the meat with the rice from Chinoy in 7th Heaven, they seem to be the perfect pairing!
Once You Go Black, You Never Go Back
For a bold statement, order the intruiguing Once You Go Black, You Never Go Back (P225), Gayuma Ni Maria's modern, playful take on the typical fish and chips. Instead of the staple breaded dory with tartar sauce and potato fries, we have the fish coated in cocoa powder, and drizzled with chocolate and mustard, and served with thinly sliced taro fries. I have to admit, the flavors of chocolate and mustard colliding in once dish takes some time getting used to. You have an unusual mix of sweet and sour on top of fish fillet, nothing like you've ever tried before. Dipping the taro fries in both mustard and chocolate was so delicious for my palate, though. I think I'll have to order this again and give it a second try to appreciate it more.
Beats Sex Anyday
After a hefty meal at Gayuma Ni Maria, one should always end the experience on a sweet note with Temptation (desserts). After all, Gayuma's known for their dessert selections -- the BTS cake (Better Than Sex), particularly, had a cult following. I don't remember how long ago it was, but I was still a teen when I first dined at Gayuma, so let's just say my memory of the BTS was very juvenile and casual. Gayuma ni Maria twists it up a bit with Beats Sex Anyday (P75). Maricar tells me that it's pretty much the same sweet and chocolatey BTS cake, just an improved version, topped with butterscotch cream and bits of chocolate.
While 'Beats Sex Anyday' could catch one's attention immediately, I admit I fell in love more with the lusciously dangerous slice of Broken Promises (P75). Less sweet, but downright rich, it's a slice of very moist chocolate crinkle cake, topped with walnuts. If real life's broken promises tastes as heavenly as its cake counterpart, then hurt my heart even more, will you?
Other cutely named desserts caught my attention, but alas, no room was left in my stomach for them. I make a mental note to try out Skinny Dipping (P125), Pillow Fight (P115) and Tall, Dark and Handsome (P75) for next time. Just ordering it would be a fun experience in itself.
Broken Promises paired with a cup of Freshly Brewed Coffee (P65) is the perfect combination
And so I've rekindled my love affair with Gayuma, now at their new home in Gayuma Ni Maria. Just like coming back to an old flame, some things just don't change, and sometimes, some new things may surprise and delight us. It's always a charming experience when you romance your way into food in this bewitching restaurant.