Food break part 2

- Rey Gamboa - The Philippine Star

The largest subdivision in Asia, BF Homes is home to many good restaurants, and though many have tried and failed, some have not only endured but are thriving very well over the years.

Conti’s, for instance, originated in BF Homes as a bake shop/coffee shop, but they had such excellent baked products that they have since expanded the coffee shop into a full restaurant and their menu is quite extensive. This family-run business now has a second generation of culinary experts, but their best-selling strawberry shortcake, mango bravo and turtle pie remain my family’s favorite take-out among the baked products.

For their main entrees or party fares, their baked salmon that is oozing with garlic, their fresh lumpia, lengua and crab salad top our list. The servings, though, are small, so hearty eaters are forewarned, and because of this, I find that the prices are not exactly cheap, though reasonable. Conti’s now has branches in Greenhills, Alabang, Fort, etc. That’s a success story.

Tito Chef along President’s Avenue is another excellent addition here. Again, it is a classic example of a big house, once lively with growing children but over the decades has become an empty nest, prompting the aging parents to sell out.

Chef Jose Amadeo Gimenez, who lives exactly 50 steps away,  in nearby Tahanan Villlage bought the property, and prudently chose not to reconfigure the sprawling house but used it to conform to well-appointed interiors.

There is no dress code here, it is casual dining, but the quiet elegance would make you squirm if you decide to drop by in your comfy backyard attire. Tito Chef is the quintessential neighborhood bistro, working around a cross-continental menu that has lately gone the route of Filipino cuisine as well. My wife has been waiting for them to offer weekend breakfast buffets, and they have finally acceded to the requests of many. The buffet, though limited, is great for families and costs only P350. But what excites her most is the sign outside the restaurant which announces that culinary short courses are soon going to be offered here. I’m sure many home makers will flock to Tito Chef once the basement area is fully renovated for the classes.

Their pasta dishes like macaroni with sautéed Spanish chorizos, their Aussie lamb and pan-fried salmon steak, their summer and Mediterranean salads, the tender Osso Bucco and paella are some of our favorites here, along with their excellent cakes and pastries which I understand are baked in-house daily and goes very well with their freshly-brewed coffee.  One can spend lazy Saturday afternoons here like my wife does with neighborhood friends. Prices are reasonable, the food presentation is meticulous, and the service good.

Like Conti’s, Tito Chef originated in BF Homes but they now have a branch in Libis, Serendra, are in Greenhills. It validates a truism in the food business:  if you have something good to offer, people will find you and patronize you. Word of mouth is your best marketing tool.

There are many bake shops, especially along the main artery which is Aguirre Avenue. The latest one to open is Manna which started out as a bake shop but has also extended their very short menu to light meals. They take pride in their breads which is gluten-free. They have a line of healthy breads like wheat pan de sal which, when freshly baked, are good but tend to be a bit hard the next day, which is probably why they are sold at 30 percent off. My family, though, loves their baked macaroni.

Just adjacent to Manna is their Thai restaurant, and though we always see quite a few diners here daily, we still have not tried this place. The prices, I hear, are reasonable, and their in-house chef is Thai (or Indonesian?).

Pancake House has always been in the genre of “good old reliables”, and their BF branch is living up to it. It is a family-type restaurant with a great breakfast menu, not exactly cheap if you are minding your expenses, but with great value for money.  Many times, after Sunday morning mass, we would end up here ordering breakfast of toast, two eggs, crispy bacon, breakfast sausages and coffee (which is one of the better ones in town). Or a stack of pancakes or waffles, again served with bacon and sausages. Never fails to lift the spirits.

And speaking of coffee, would you believe they have not one, but two Starbucks stores here and they are both always full at any given time? I’m not exactly a fan of Starbucks—I find their prices overrated, the quality of the coffee is not consistent, and one doesn’t have enough choices among their offerings. But it makes for a great meeting place anyway.

There is a newly-opened resto here called Tropical Palate located at 345 Aguirre Avenue in Phase 3 run by young Allan Bunagan who discovered his culinary inclinations rather late after some foreign sojourns with his family. This young man is a childhood friend of my son Wee who used to come along to our weekend beach forays in Batangas, and I’m glad to see him working so hard to carve a name in the tough food business.

Tropical Palate is his first venture, along with partner Brian Flores who shares kitchen duties with him. I have not personally gone to his resto, but we featured it in a very recent Food Trip episode in Business & Leisure, so I’ve had a chance to “sample” their menu which includes chicken kebab served with pita bread and grilled tomatoes and onions (the crew said it was excellent chicken, tender and marinated in spices) and costs only P190. The most expensive entrée in the menu is P200, most are just over P100 with a good serving of organic greens.

There is a good selection of house burgers, organic salads with a choice of blue cheese or honey mustard dressing.  Their tacos served with a zesty sauce is a top seller, and their most-ordered dessert is the cheesecake with almonds and served with Chantilly cream on top. But what sets them apart from other newbies is they make their pasta fresh every day, firm and not soggy, and unlike commercially sold pasta, the fresh ones cook so fast, according to Brian. Definitely worth a try, the servings are hefty and easy on the pocket too.

Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.

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