Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Allured by Homeys Cafe's Ilocano Cuisine

Like any other children,  I used to hate vegetables, except French fries of course (yeah when I was four I considered it as a vegetable).   My parents were so determined to make us eat all the dishes, where more vegetables are visible than meat.   I even used to think that whoever invented Pinakbet must have really hated children because it had all the bitter and slimy vegetables I detested.  There would be times though that we'd have scrambled eggs for lunch, but lo ampalaya (bitter melon) is mixed in it.
However, I grew up making healthy choices specialty when I had a cholecystectomy (surgical removal of gall-bladder) in high school.   And that's when I learned how to appreciate vegetables and most of the dishes my Papa would cook for us.
More years have passed, until I became close to our Ilocano neighbors.  They would give me sample veggie dishes cooked the Ilocano style like Dinengdeng, Dinakdakan and few others.  Ilocano cuisine evokes a range of taste even in one dish.  But over all, it truly defines what a homey food for a Filipino is.
Speaking of homey, I just happened to chance upon a cafe in the not so busy part of Legazpi Village.  A fellow Marian (Jem Pamintuan) have been helping out her friend spread the word of their cafe.   When I saw her post on FB, heralding Homeys Cafe, what instantly came to my mind was that they might be serving comfort foods and I said to myself I should give it a try.

And what do you know, I found myself and a friend in the cafe after a week of knowing about it.  
The remarkable place is hard to miss.  It is just along Lagaspi St., near Legazpi Park and next to it is Starbucks (which happens to be at a corner street).   I asked my friend to come along and have our meeting about a project at Homeys and to try the fare.

It was a relaxing feel inside Homeys specially when it's scorching hot outside.  For its namesake, "homey" (homeys in plural form) is referred to someone you feel right at home with or like a homebody.  Indeed, everyone who comes to the cafe feel to be one.
And what could be a good way to feel right at home, even when you are away from the comforts of your own home, none other than having the food you have been longing for after having "umay" with the fast-food and street foods.
In all honesty, it has been hard for me to find a legit home-cooked food in diners, without having it played aroun- okay in the 'chefy' world they say tweaked, without paying a muckle.

Chicken Bagnet
The wait-staff was so courteous in asking us our orders and Ms. Karina, the resto manager, suggested we try the Bagnet.   A bit scared of pork meat and oils (I know,I can be a foodie hypocrite at times) I got the Chicken Bagnet instead.  If you are a non-Ilocano like me, bagnet is simply lechon kawali.  But what makes it so distinct is that it is served it with a selection of sukang Iloko or chopped tomatoes and onions with bagoong isda dip.  In our case a dip of bagoong isda with tomato and scallion mixed in.  Then I wondered why have I been keeping a bottle of bagoong isda from Pangasinan in my cupboard, when I can use it with fried dishes as an alternative to Heinz.
The chicken was so crisp and expect the inner part to be tender yet completely cooked.  There are some hear says that with bagnet, meat is fried twice, so that might be true here.  It is not salty nor bland and mind you not oily, but it is to ones preference to dip it in the bagoong, but please I dare you to, it will definitely change your perspective of eating fried chicken, in a good a way.
Pinakbet Bagnet
Alona, the head of the marketing in the book project that we are doing chose to have Pinakbet Bagnet.  A plate of healthy goodness of  mixed vegetables- string beans, eggplant, squash, lady-finger, and of course the amplaya.   I remembered when we were kids, my Papa would sing us the Bahay Kubo song just for us to get interested in the aforementioned dish.
Alona being the health and figure-conscious babe was not able to resist the call of Bagnet.  As she said, it always remind her of the allure of Vigan and Pagudpud.   According to her the taste was just right for her, not at all salty, just a hint though of the bagoong on the stir-fried traditional dish, just like how our grandmas would cook us or better.   The Bagnet on one hand was crackling and a worthy cheat from her usual diet.

Did I mention they also serve out a complimentary soup?  It would depend though on what soup the chef
had bountifully prepared for the day.
Another factor that really distinguishes Ilocano cooking and makes it well developed is the bitter range of its flavor.   This is quite unthinkable among other Filipinos — those who live in the urban in particular, but to the Ilocanos it is required to appreciate many of their dishes with ampalaya.  Quite fascinating though, their Ampalaya (same name in the menu) is not that bitter at all, its delish!   It's like a version of Gising-gising, were the bitter gourd is chopped up with the same size as the ground pork and all the other ingredients.  You can actually eat a lot and therefore savoring all the natural benefits of the vegetable like lowering blood sugar levels and  blood pressure and being one of the best in enhancing the immune system, etc.
Kilawing Tanigue with Grilled Liempo
Now, how can I not tell you about the dish I have been looking for in a long time.   Have you had that experience when you are in a restaurant and just had an instant craving at one of their dish but had gotten disappointed?  Many of those instances were with Kinilaw.  Most of the time, when I order a dish of that kind, all it would leave me is the sour aftertaste from the 'uber' sour vinegar they've used.   What I like in a kinilaw is a blend of the coco milk and vinegar, not too spicy and just a few bites of those scallions chopped up.   The coconut milk (kakang-gata) somehow diffuses the sourness from the vinegar but does not diminish its ability to chemically cook the raw fish.  At Homeys however, I'm not pretty sure whether coco milk was mixed with the vinegar or mayonnaise was in it.   You be the judge, when you try it.  All I can say is that its a winning dish.   And I definitely will be coming back for that.  It's categorized under Pulutan but please you have to try it with rice.
Belgian Waffle with Ice Cream
For dessert, do try their ice-cream topped waffles, all fancied up with chocolate and strawberry syrups drizzled, with your choice of ice cream.   They also have leche flan and ice cream by the scoop.
According to the owner, Tintin Soriano-Onglatco, the menu is still under development being a fairly new dining place, they might include more dishes specially on the desserts.   Though they are more confident now in marketing the place to welcome more foodies looking for a pleasant meal without being ripped off with, and an ambiance that matches any upscale restaurants.   But they still prefer for people to cozy up with an experience of home-cooked meals with just steps away from their office or even a phone call away (YES! They deliver).
Eye-catching quirky designed walls.
Let me end this post with an anecdote told by a host in one of TV show recording I had attended.   The story goes...The lady host being married to an American, mentioned of how she knew whether a Filipino lives at certain home.   She went on and asked the audience, "how would you know?"   More according to her, "First upon entering, you might notice that shoes or slippers are left on the doorstep, then upon getting to the living room, notice that the sofas (coach or whatever) are still in their original plastic or covered with a blanket, then on the dining room check the wall, Filipinos own the house if they have on their wall a gigantic pair of wooden spoon and fork." Then everyone laughed and laughed.
It all goes to say that the homeyness of Filipinos can not be matched, though not all the food establishments can truly boasts of their authenticity, but what is important above all is to know what comfort food really is  to most Filipinos, and I dare say, the couple behind Homeys Cafe knows.

Homeys Cafe

Address:  Ground Floor Miriam House Bldg, 151 Legaspi St.,
                Legazpi Village, Makati
Contact Number:  (02) 945-7004  or (02) 945-7009
FACEBOOK Page:  Homeys Cafe


  1. I like their bagnet too! Try the tapa!

    1. They do have an all-day breakfast menu, and maybe one of this days i will try their tapa.

  2. looks yum! their menu reminds of a local resto here in Cebu called Booosog, which also serves pinoy dishes. ^_^
    Random Beauty by Hollie

    1. Boosog sounds interesting:)! Will add that to my to go to list under Cebu!

  3. I love it when Filipino restos focus on regional cuisine. Must give this a visit. :)

  4. I have been looking for a place like this, serving Ilokano dishes in Makati. Thanks for sharing Joy.


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