LOOK: Lola Cafe Serves a Fancy Upgrade to Filipino Comfort Food!

There are moments when we crave for the comfort of home-cooked meals, and days when we want something fancy to indulge in. But what if you want both?

The answer? Lola Café!

Lola, the Filipino word for grandmother, is the theme and inspiration of this restaurant. But before Lola Café came to be, the charming little space along Scout Lozano used to be the home of a grandmother and her family—a place of warmth, love and home-cooked meals. Fast forward many years after, the space was then converted into a restaurant by the Locale Food Group: the creative minds behind Little Owl, Liberty, Hukad and Golden Cowrie.

Despite the transformation, Lola Café keeps the elements of home in their restaurant. From the long tables that can seat families, to the eye-pleasing neutral colors of the restaurant, the knickknacks that adorn the cabinets and shelves all over the space, and the warm smiles of the staff, Lola Café exudes the aura of coziness and welcomes you into its space.

Lola Café endeavors to show the same care that any lola would give her grandchildren: breakfast, or almusal to energize, a filling tanghalian during the noontime, an afternoon merienda snack to put a smile on everyone’s faces, and finally, a satisfying hapunan to end the day. Every meal was made with love, and Lola Café intends to show it in their dishes.

Lola’s Café serves free-form Filipino cuisine—comfort food favorites that are reinvented into something much fancier— with prices that don’t cost an arm and leg. Each dish comes with a story, and a unique twist that sets it apart from other Filipino classics. These still, however, maintain the nostalgic taste that we all look for.

During our visit, we got to sample their bestsellers:

Small Plates

Bone Marrow Sisig (PHP265)

A creative take on the well-loved pork sisig dish of crunchy meat, onions and chili, theirs is served on a cow’s bone and made with beef. The Bone Marrow Sisig of Lola Cafe features grilled bone marrow for extra meatiness, mixed with bites of beef, along with minced garlic and leeks as aromatics. It even uses kamias jam for that sour taste that cuts through the rich flavors. Enjoy it with some crunchy sliced bread or with a helping of steamed white rice.

Fresh Lumpiang Palabok (PHP180)

This new menu item takes its inspiration from the summer rolls of Vietnam. The twist? They stuff it with their version of vermicelli noodles that are cooked in a mixture of crab fat, salty tinapa fish and a mix of fish sauce and calamansi— patis mansi— for a touch of acidity. Everything is then wrapped in rice paper and served with creamy peanut sauce to give a creamy nuttiness to the overall dish.

Rice Bowl

Crispy Tadyang Rice (PHP260)

Crispy Tadyang is a well-loved dish that showcases deep-fried beef ribs that are served with soy sauce and vinegar, or pickled vegetables. Lola Café upgrades theirs into a hearty rice bowl meant to fill you up nicely. A bed of fluffy white rice sits at the bottom, and the magic starts on the layers that go on top of it: shredded bits of deep-fried beef brisket, fishy bonito flakes, sweet corn and tangy pickled onions that have a bite of sourness to it. This colorful kaleidoscope of flavors is best enjoyed mixed up in order to get a bomb of different tastes, textures and flavors.

Chicken Tinola Rice (PHP260)

Chicken Tinola is known as a heartwarming soup paired with every lunch or dinner meal. Lola Café takes it up a notch by creating a rice bowl version that marries together all the essentials of a tinola: a boneless chicken thigh and leg and green papaya infused in chicken soup served on top of a ginger and lemongrass rice pilaf. Biting into the chunks of papaya releases the sought-after taste of the soup, while the aromatic rice gives it the characteristic gingery spice that this soup is known for. And let’s not forget the star: tender bites of meat sans the hassle of picking at bones.

Pasta

Pasta Negra (PHP310)

Don’t let the dark color of this pasta fool you— the Pasta Negra of Lola Café is by far a creative masterpiece that is both delicious and addicting. Al dente noodles are tossed in a mix of dark squid ink and crab fat (aligue) before being topped with chewy bites of baby squid and chopped leeks. The resulting taste is rich and creamy, with an undernote of saltiness quite reminiscent of cheese that goes with the briny flavors of the sea. I have to say, by far, this is a crowd favorite. But be careful to wipe your mouth afterwards, lest you end up with inky teeth.

Crispy Pancit Lechon (PHP280)

Pancit is a must-have in every table because it’s easy to make. All you need are noodles, a mix of meat and veggies, and you have enough to feed your family. Lola Café takes this classic and brings it to a whole new level by frying the noodles to make them crispy. A medley of julienne carrots, cabbage and beans line the sides, and a generous helping of flavorful lechon kawali go on top. Give it a good mix to get the soy sauce-based mixture on everything, and you will enjoy for yourself a play on textures and flavors: occasional bites of crispy and soft pancit paired with the meatiness of the pork and the refreshing bite of vegetables in a sweet and salty sauce. It’s a novel experience that I will never get enough of.

Mains

Truffle Lengua (PHP575)

Lengua, commonly known as ox tongue, can be served in a myriad of ways—with cream sauce and mushrooms being a popular accompaniment. Lola Café, however, serves this crowd favorite with a twist: truffle. The strips of beefy goodness are slow-cooked til they’re nice and tender with a mix of wild mushrooms. The white sauce filled with earthy flavors of truffle, which intensify the flavors of mushroom in this dish, are generously poured all over til each bite is coated in the good stuff.

Humba Glazed Belly (PHP525)

Humba is by far a favorite dish of mine because it incorporates the sweetness of pineapple in the sauce that goes on slices of pork. It’s a treat that makes my sweet tooth oh so happy, and something I would often look for. Lola Café’s take on the well-loved Pork Humba makes use of pork rib with meat that just slides off the bone when you shred it with your fork. They then cook the meat in the fruity humba sauce until it reduces into a sticky glaze. Chimichurri is served on the side to contrast sour-sweet flavors with the subtle heat from the chili mixed with the rich taste of herbs.

Lapu-Lapu Alavar (PHP550)

A treat for the pescatarians out there, the Lapu-lapu Alavar of Lola is deep-fried to give it a crispy exterior that belies tender flakes of meat. This majestic fish rests on a bed of alavar sauce—a Zamboangan classic that is often paired with seafood. This reddish orange sauce has a mild heat that’s paired and undertones of grassiness. My first time trying out this sauce, I would have to say the taste reminds me of Tom Yum: zesty, hot and sour. The steamed spinach on the side serves as a welcome reprieve, should the heat be too much for you. (Trust me, it’s a subtle spiciness that doesn’t stay for long)

Bistek Tagalog (PHP405)

A quintessential breakfast item that no Filipino can do without, the Bistek Tagalog gets its name from the words “beef steak”. Known for its characteristic brown sauce, caramelized onions and thin slices of beef, Lola’s version incorporates these elements to their dish, but adds some crunchy shoestring fries on top. The brown sauce is made with a sour-salty soy-calamansi that coats each bite evenly. Enjoy it with steaming hot rice, along with some onions for that much-needed sweetness to complete the meal.

The food, interior and hospitality of Lola Café make it a perfect location for events: weddings, celebrations, birthdays and even anniversaries. They are an ever-constant presence every step and every milestone reached, as they welcome everyone with a smile to their warm and cozy abode. Get the best of both worlds: fancy and unforgettable meals with the nostalgic taste of home only at Lola Café!

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Don’t forget to try their delicious Kesong Puti Cheesecake that is simply so addicting. One serving of this may not be enough.

Lola Café

Address: 99 Scout Lozano St, Diliman, Quezon City, 1103 Metro Manila

Contact Number: (02)501-2620 and (02)219-3254

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lolacafe.ph/

Instagram: @lolacafe

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