More resto finds
- Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - October 9, 2015 - 10:00am

Every so often, we give in to persistent clamor from our regular readers to share our new discoveries in the food scene. Here’s one of our new ones that our roving B&L (Business & Leisure) crew discovered in Calumpang in Marikina City.

The Caballes family has been a shoe-making clan for decades. If you remember the brands Cardam and Otto back in the ’70s, it is this big clan that came out with those trendy designs. But the big “China invasion” that flooded the country with cheap mass-produced merchandise, shoes included, has forced the family to shift to other businesses.

In fact, there are already two or three shoe factories here in Marikina that have converted their factories to restaurants.  One of these is the restaurant run by Dennis Caballes, son of family matriarch Mrs. Meya Caballes.

The ancestral house at 70 Calumpang st. is huge with a spacious lawn and well-established garden, and it was perhaps natural for Dennis, his brother and their mom to shift to the restaurant business. The ancestral home is perfect for a garden restaurant, and after several nights of playing Iron Chef competitions in this very house with cousins and friends (for want of something to do, says Dennis), Patio Vera was born. Vera, by the way, was the name of the grandmother who was a great cook in her days.

The idea was conceptualized in 2009, but the restaurant opened its doors to the public only in October 2011. With no previous experience or any formal culinary training to speak of, they wisely got a consultant-friend to formulate the menu, bar list, etc. before they declared themselves  ready to take off.

What is initially striking is the ambience, the visual experience that Patio Vera offers to anyone who comes in. Dennis’ brother collects Asian antiques from way back, and this collection is everywhere—inside the house, in the patio, in the garden. Large Asian jars, old clocks, even a four-poster bed that doesn’t look out of place in the sala, doors with a clear patina of age, old cabinets.

What comes across is a picture of old charm, perfect for wedding receptions or even just for wedding proposals which they have had plenty of. Patio Vera also has its fair share of weddings; in fact, Dennis says that six months into their operation, they already chalked up 20 weddings. Golden or silver wedding anniversaries, garden weddings for young romantic couples, lesbian and gay weddings—name it, they’ve had it.  Plus of course debuts, birthday gatherings, etc. 

But don’t get me wrong—Patio Vera is open to walk-ins, and they have in fact positioned themselves for family lunches and dinners because of the cool ambience and traditional Filipino favorites that make up their menu. Remember that Mom Meya and grandmother Vera have made their mark in the clan as great cooks, and now son Dennis gives expression to his previous work experience as a visual merchandiser in creating this extraordinary ambience.

Dennis came up with a hearty meal that weekday when the B&L crew came by and proudly said the dishes were among Patio Vera’s best sellers. For the appetizer, they had Dinamita, actually lumpia to you and me. This is actually long jalapeno peppers stuffed with Vigan longganisa and cheese, and fried crispy on the outside.  This is served with a chilli sauce dip and costs P245. Sounds like it is for the brave of heart, which this writer is not, because I don’t have much tolerance for very hot food, but my wife and children would definitely enjoy that.

The next dish is named Everlasting!  It is the Marikina version of meat loaf, according to Dennis and is so-called because of its long shelf life. Meat loaves are a staple in many homes with growing kids as these are easy to prepare and a favorite baon for school because they are not messy. This one costs P275 and looks hefty enough to fill at least two persons.

Menudo de Meya is another favourite here at Patio Vera, named after the family matriarch because it is one of her specialties.  I am a menudo lover myself because my brothers and I have been eating this dish growing up with my Mom, but curiously, this restaurant’s  version has no tomato sauce.  Dennis says his Mom uses annatto oil (achuete) instead to come up with the same reddish color. Otherwise, it looks exactly like a traditional menudo would look like, with chunkier meat and potatoes. Price is P295.

Their seafood pasta is priced at P325, which seems a little high for a pasta dish. But Dennis says this dish of assorted sea food with zesty pomodoro sauce is meant for sharing.

And lastly, they have their paellas that count among their best sellers. They have four variants, shares Dennis: the paella valenciana, paella de marisco, the paella negra and one other variant that combines valenciana and marisco. That afternoon, they served the marisco variant which costs P525 for a paellera big enough for two or three to share.  The paella comes with a large lemon wedge and boasts of fat prawns along with clams, etc. on top and looks quite inviting.

A place marketed for family dining, all of their dishes are meant for sharing, so it is good to keep this in mind when ordering. Given that, the prices do not come off as pricey, but in fact quite reasonable.

It is good to marry good food with good ambience—one without the other leaves much to be desired. And since Dennis, who runs the day-to-day activities while his Mom runs the kitchen operations, has an eye for details, the dining experience becomes a very pleasing one. They even have a long table setting for big families or large groups of friends with a white billowing canopy, giant ferns and clumps of tall bamboos framing the private setting. Nice.

Operating hours are: Monday to Thursday - 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 mn; Friday to Sunday – 11:00 a.m. to 12 mn. No rest day for this busy family!

Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.

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