Friday, August 31, 2012

Balay Cena Una: The Grandeur of the Old and the New

 When I was planning our trip to Albay, there is another major concern I was dealing with.  Where I could get a top-notch place to eat with the whole family that is note-worthy and one we could cherish.   To be honest, this adventure-full  trip is not only for a leisure sight-seeing, but also for the gastronomic experience the region has been boasting of.
 Oh yes, Bicol's cuisine is not only about chilies (sili), coconut milk (gata) and pili nut.  The cuisine is as rich as it's culture and history.  Talking about Bicol's history, a house from an off-beaten path is tucked away in a residential area in Daraga is transformed into a fine-dining restaurant whilst restoring its ancestral artistry.
Balay Cena Una  ('sinaunang bahay' in Tagalog and old house in English) is a  Spanish style restored ancestral home.   It is like a huge history book opened up for us.
In this picture my husband is seen telling stories to my daughter about Bicol's old world, captured in the pictures on the wall.  Old collectibles are maintained at wooden cabinets covered with chicken wires.

And of course, moving on to the main reason why we were there, their food offerings.  The menu is so varied, from internationally known food such as steaks and pasta, down to some  fusion of International-Bicolano dishes.
 My kids had the Creamy Mushroom Soup which was so heartily filled with mushrooms and a garlic bread on the side.  We asked if they could split the order for two and they gladly accommodated us with it.  One order is only P76.
 For the Amuse Bouche, we had to try their Bruschetta.   I actually have a post about making this from Julia Child's recipe which was a success, but will still have to be posted.  We wanted to see if theirs would be better or bad compared to Julia's.  Bruschetta are sliced of breads, toasted in olive oil and brushed with fresh garlic, topped with tomatoes cooked in EVOO.
 Since I am still full with the late lunch we had at Sibid-Sibid, I only ordered Wild Fern Salad.  Known to us as pako, I really never knew this can be made into salads, of course like any other vegetables.  But this one was tastefully done.  Bicol is so blessed with edible ferns so they can craft any beautiful dish with this.
 The three girls had their share of  the Pasta Carbonara.  For a cost of P195 it is such a steal.   The fettuccine was al dente enough for them, which was richly smothered with creamy, milky sauce with lots of bacon chips and ground parmesan.

 Bhogs had the plate of Cena Una Marinated Boneless
Chicken (P211).  Chef Dick's specialty as mentioned by the staff.  The chicken was marinated with fresh lemon juice then friend.  It is then drizzled over with a brown sauce, likened to adobo.  This dish is complimented with rice. He liked the chicken because it was very tender and tasty. The mixture of sweet and sour is very pleasing to the palate.

I had a cold glass of mixed herbal teas to wash down my healthy plate.  Served with lemon juice and honey on the side.

Then came the desserts....

The English Vanilla Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce.  This divine baked cheesecake kicks off that vanilla essence in every bite.  We were swooned over with this artfully made plate, which we found hard to dismangle.   The spoon glides so smoothly at the cheesecake, it actually resembles a hard custard but it's definitely a cheesecake.

Creme Brulee, a very voluptuous creamy pudding, that's rich, smooth, with an eggie cream waiting to ooze out on the spoon that breaks through the caramelized sugar disc on top.   Made even elegantly with fresh fruits balled and sliced.  One ramekin was not enough for all of us.   This will make you selfish, you wouldn't want to share with anybody, that has what my daughter become.  Danielle said this is the best dessert she had yet in a restaurant.

More pictures from the second level of the house...

Oh we are still dreaming of this place...till next time Balay Cena Una!


  1. The food looks really amazing. You should really consider photography as a serious profession. With the way you shot these, the food looks really delectable. As in! I wish I could have some similar food adventures myself.

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