By Gene Gonzalez
Bangkal has gained fame as the place to find antiques and heirloom pieces for those who value these pre-loved finds. I got a few tips from collector friend Bill Daland, who has been roaming these streets of Bangkal and who knows every store owner. He gave me a few places where you can sustain your picker’s soul during the long hours of meticulous foraging for good pre-loved finds.
Here are a couple of places that have sustained and restored me during my breaks from foraging for good finds.
I did hear from Bill that this place near the corner of Evangelista and EDSA is owned by a former operations manager of Pancake House. I did not expect that for such a small place it would have an extensive Filipino food menu interspersed with the bestsellers of the old Pancake House.
In my two visits, I found that the turnover was rather fast and the place never seems to run out of diners—a good enough sign, because you can expect their ingredients and raw materials to be fresh, always replenished. The first time I got to this place, at about 8:30 p.m., they were already out of waffles, so I decided to try out their Filipino food. My order for sizzling kansi arrived on the cast iron plate all bubbling. So I dug into the beef with gravy, and I had noticed a rich transformation in my palate, making me take a second look at the dish on the sizzling plate. The extra creamy beefiness that tickled my palate was probably from the little bits of corned beef that highlighted the flavor of what otherwise would have tasted like ordinary beef with plain gravy. It pushed the beef flavors up, adding to the already delightful gelatinous connective tissue of the tender cubes of beef.
For its price, their kare-kare with guisadong bagoong was very tasty, and it comes in a generous serving that’s good for two. No wonder it seems to be one of their best sellers. The calf’s foot, which is a favored cut in the Visayas and in Mindanao, was simmered to tenderness. One thing I can appreciate with this budget kare-kare is the very clean flavor of the ox feet. What remains is the beefy flavor and its strong gaminess has been eliminated. They should think of serving balbacua if they can treat their ox feet like so.
On our next picker’s day, being pleasantly pleased with Jolly Dopey, we decided to go a bit “Western” and check out their carbonara and chicken cordon bleu. For the price, as in our first visit, I would not complain about getting two roulades of chicken stuffed with ham and a little cheese with rice, and a slice of watermelon—which I had ordered because it is standard “fine dining” fare for caterers like this establishment and I knew that it would be difficult for a legitimate caterer to bungle this up—for R95. Similarly, we got a decent plate of carbonara for R65, plus we decided to finally trip on their waffles. We’re talking about R95 for the traditional waffle topped with buttercream (familiar?), though not a big scoop, and R100 for their chocolate stripe, which has peanut sauces together with the chocolate and apart from the buttercream scoop. The waffles are beautifully light and airy, so you need to eat them fast enough, as the crisp structure gets soft. Maybe on a next visit, I will ask them to lengthen the cooking time so I could enjoy my waffles while admiring the great buys I find in the area.
Kaito Japanese Carinderia
If we talk of streetfood, Kaito is a literal example of eating on a sidewalk. This is a place owned by a Filipino who has worked in many of the Nippon kitchens in the city and his venture occupies the frontage of two apartments on Apolinario Street. The hot kitchen and the sushi bar are perched on the frontage, as the diners eat on tables and chairs propped on the sidewalk. My friend Bill was a bit hesitant with the sushi-sashimi because he brought us there to try the hot kitchen dishes. Looking at the assortment, I saw that the refrigerated showcase was well kept and the assortment was fresh and had their natural oils intact. So, we ordered some items. The salmon sashimi arrived in a glass bowl with ice, surprisingly—and I admit I was impressed with this tidbit of presentation.
Just as our ebi tempura arrived, my companions stumbled upon freshly cooked takoyaki across the street. We had the scalding experience of eating these creamy balls with octopus (but, in this case, it was cuttlefish) side by side our ebi tempura. The tempura scored decently with me as the batter was light and crisp, with a dipping sauce that had the hondashi I was looking for. Similarly, the omu rice combined with Korean chapchae was made better with the tonkatsu sauce I requested and drizzled on top of the omelet. The beef and chicken teriyaki are reminiscent of the old-style teriyakis, though I was looking for a stronger tasting sauce. What’s good about this place, of course, is its convenience for heirloom pickers and for late-night eaters after a Makati bar spree. Kaito closes at midnight.
This article was first published in Manila Bulletin Lifestyle.