February 6, 2015

Café Adriatico

Food crawl: A multi-stop investigation of several restaurants, meals, or specific item on the menus. It can refer to trying out one dish per restaurant to complete a meal, or trying out a specific course such as appetizers or desserts.

It is the ultimate adventure for foodies, a trip that could potentially be fatal to your diet, and you could literally be crawling out of the restaurant before its over.

It is also the type of event I’ve been trying to avoid for the last few months, since I’m desperately trying to lose some pounds—make that lots of pounds, and hopefully be able to wear something decent before summer and not look like Baymax in trunks.

But there are just some things I can’t resist.

And desserts are my kryptonite—one of my many “edible kryptonites” that is.

So like Winnie the Pooh following a scent of honey, I decided to brave the Friday traffic and squeeze my way inside the MRT to get to SM Mall of Asia.

With Valentine’s just a few days away, I figured I’d get an early start to check out where I could take my date and make VDay more memorable.

As one of the biggest malls in the world, I’m sure you’d easily find something to do around its 42 hectare land area. You could shop all day, watch a movie or two, view the entire city on EYE, try out some of the rides by the bay or hold hands while watching the sunset. And when you get hungry from there are hundreds of dining destinations just waiting for you.


For this particular food crawl our group of bloggers were divided into groups of two, and my partner was John Michael Bueno of who I think has some the best food photos in his blog.

Our first assignment was Café Adriatico located at the Second Floor, Entertainment Section of SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

The flagship of the LJC Restaurant Group, Café Adriatico serves a full menu of Filipino, Spanish and continental fare. “LJC” stands for the initials of the late Larry J. Cruz who is the founder and president of the LJC Chain of Restaurants. Mr. Cruz started out as a journalist and made a career change when he opened his first restaurant, a small café in a modest corner of the Remedios Circle in Malate. He named the restaurant Café Adriatico, after the street it was on.

Their form of social media back then was word of mouth and through the support of his media friends, Café Adriatico quickly became most talked about restaurant in town.

Among the Café’s specialties are: the Spareribs Adobo, Salpicao Rice, Callos, Lengua Estufada, Classic Café Adriatico Burger, Pancit Palabok and authentic Spanish hot chocolate “Chocolate Eh” and one of John’s favorite Chicken ala Kiev. The menu also includes a variety of light options such as salads, sandwiches, omelettes and fondues.
With the promise of good food and warm and friendly service, Café Adriatico became the venue where Manila’s elite hobnobbed with celebrities, artists, business leaders and political movers and shakers.

That reputation continues until today, and we felt quite important with the attention we got from the very welcoming staff.

The restaurant interiors exude a rustic charm and would remind you of the old colonial Philippines you read in books. The lighting is not to bright or dim but just enough to make the food look even more appetizing.

As we were on the SM MoA Sweet Eats food crawl I was just expecting a couple of desserts to try out, instead they served us a full course meal with some of their trademark dishes.

We started off with a pair of appetizers, the first was Humus and Pita bread, this Eastern Mediterranean blend of chickpeas, garlic and spices was quite new to me so I let John walk me through it.

Hummus is made of pureed chick peas and garlic and served with grilled pita bread and a side of Calamata Olives, Pickled Onions and Gherkins (small pickles).

The taste was unfamiliar but it was quite good and the thick creamy Hummus spread on top of the warm pita bread was met positively by my tastebuds! You know you like something when you can’t wait for the next bite and that is exactly what happened as I tried adding the crunchy trio of calamata olives and company.
The serving is good enough for two to four if you just want to try it out.


Next came the Callos. John, who had some Spanish blood said they usually prepared this Spanish dish at home. It contains beef tripe (tuwalya) and/or chickpeas (garbanzos), chorizo and bell peppers. I’ve tried some other versions but I liked their version better as it isn’t too oily and the sauce was a bit thicker. It also had generous portions of ingredients such as ox tripe, shanks and chorizo slices.

I would’ve asked for rice but I liked how the crunchy garlic bread complements the chewy texture of the ox tripe. It’s a tempting feast of flavors for your taste buds and a bit too sinful if you are on a diet.

For our main course we had Prawns Thermidor and Lola Ising’s Adobo Rice


We decided to share each plate but I had more of the Prawns Thermidor, as I told John I love prawn. Although considered as the counterpart of the more expensive lobster thermidor, the Prawn Thermidor we had certainly was no less deliciously elegant.


Originally Lobster Thermidor is a French dish consisting of a creamy mixture of cooked lobster meat, egg yolks, and brandy (often cognac), stuffed into a lobster shell. The word thermidor on the other hand is named after the eleventh month in the French Republican Calendar and the French word thermal which comes from the Greek word “thermos” which means heat.

So that may be the reason why it should be eaten while still relatively hot. Two big prawns take the center of the plate and unlike other prawn dishes which just put a dollop of sauce on top of it, this one is more intricately prepared.
First the shell is cut at the back and the meat is scooped out and chopped. It is then mixed with some sautéed onions in butter, mushroom, before it is stuffed back in and baked and topped with hollandaise and cheese . The result will make any a seafood lover drool. A squeeze of lemon is suggested although what you’d really need is another cup of rice!

John had Lola Ising’s Adobo Rice, which I couldn’t resist trying out. And let me tell you, after the first spoonful, you’d be asking for Lola Ising—or at least the chef just so you could give him/her one big hug. I’m a fan of adobo despite all its cholesterol risks but this one is just darn delicious to resist. So one spoonful was followed by another, and then another. Simply one of the best versions of adobo I’ve ever tasted. I liked how the meat was so tender and evenly marinated so every bite was full of flavor. There was just the right amount of pork fat, and the sauce was served separately which made it more like a dip. The adobo sauce was thick but not too oily and didn’t taste like it was just full of soy sauce.


Like a real ninja, the Beef Spareribs Ninja was an unexpected addition–but it did complete our pork, seafood, and now beef trio of main courses. The taste is similar to Beef Stew but with a little more spice and ginger and goes perfect with plain white rice. Why it was called ninja? Maybe its because its appeal slowly creeps up on you as the flavors slowly unravel.

Finally it was time for the Sweetest part of our Meal—Dessert! And this time we got to try the Coupe Adriatico
Since we already had a very flavorful meal the Coup Adriatico was a little tamer on our taste buds. Composed of several scoops of vanilla ice cream, mango balls, banana slices and blueberry topping, this is one dessert that should describe your relationship—sweet but balanced, without any ingredient overpowering the others the result is a harmony of flavors dancing inside your mouth.

Other desserts on the menu include, Claude’s Dream (Pandan Flavored Gelatin and young coconut in macapuno cream); Claude’s Dream II (Watermelon and mango balls, topped with crispy pinipig) Mango Jubilee (Vanilla ice Cream topped with flambéed fresh mango) Chocolate Decadence; Canonigo with Mango Balls, or the good old Halo Halo Special.

Café Adriatico’s other best sellers include; Chicken ala Kiev, Spareribs Adobo, Salpicao Rice, Lengua Estufada, Classic Café Adriatico Burger, Pancit Palabok and the authentic Spanish hot chocolate “Chocolate Eh”.
Café Adriatico’s menu also includes a variety of light options such as salads, sandwiches, omelettes and fondues. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
If you are planning a weekend date, you might want to make reservations on a Saturday as the place gives you a good view of the 2015 Philippine International Pyromusical Competition.

Café Adriatico Second Floor, Entertainment Section of SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City
Phone: 556-0608 Seating capacity: 100
Business Hours: Monday – Sunday / 10:00 am – 11:00 pm

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