Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Jolt of Wonder at Cafe Alezon

If I could write a song or a sonnet maybe, it would be about food and home decorating...
Most artists have written lyrics of heartbreaks, love and intimacy but nothing could be compared more than writing about that nourishes not only the body but the soul as well, well for me maybe.  When it comes to home decorating, both my husband and I love the mix of the old and the new, the rustic chic and vibrant vintage intertwined with simple modern leisurely living.  

But I'm not a song writer, not even a poet but I know for sure, I can write about what I ate or where we've been too that says about moments of wonders.

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine in the publishing business introduced me to someone affiliated to a cafe inside BF Resorts, in Las Pinas.  I was a bit adamant at first, for I'm guessing it's another run-of-the-mill cafe inside the infamous foodie-spot.  However, this came really quite a surprise for me and Bhogs when we got to visit the place. 

Those moments of wonders when you get to discover a different path to your usual access areas. Coming from Sucat, Googlemap led us to Southville School and on to Tropical Avenue.  We didn't know that BF Homes expanse to Las Pinas, well not that I know of.

When we finally found the place after passing by it and partially getting lost, that WOW factor was in place.   Really it was wonderful having discovered this place and sharing it to you, our dear readers.  (Yes you, Mama, Papa, Sis, Bro and my former classmates hehe...)

Brick, iron and wood.

These are the elements that brought Cafe Alezon to life and the owner Venjoy Alegre's keen eye for design, his unique visions and humbling personality makes Cafe Alezon an interesting place to hang out. 

Bare-naked cement walls, exposed ornate metal awnings, huge print of Frida Kahlo's photo, re-purposed rusty metal roof and Alezon marquee are just some of the pieces that would welcome you. The design may not be for everybody but the melding of the different elements worked so well, it's like your breathing in vintage love if you're here.  

His wife Anna Marie, who co-manages the cafe said that each items have interesting stories to tell, stories of how her husband envisioned them as a functional furniture piece though looking like junk at first. Venjoy, who does not admit he is an artist can see beauty beyond every stuff he'd found lying somewhere.

Notice the table on the photo above?  It used to be an old door, flipped into a table and accentuated with Machuca tiles, originally referred to as Mosaicos Machuca but named more appropriately as Baldozas Mosaicos.  These Mediterranean caustic tiles are actually manufactured here.  All I thought were imported was actually Philippine-made. 

This is the facade and the entrance to the cafe is on the right.  This is just the outside, wait till you get in.

Now where does he get such designs...Look at the iron works here, these are actually dragons designed as balusters for a gate or something.   It's a good idea they had this exposed, as it is for the purpose of supporting a shade for the glass window of the cafe.  Replacing the shade are emptied wine bottles lined up above the glass window.

Below the bottles is this painting given by friends and customers along with some other pre-owned books and desk accessories.

Who would have thought this wooden chest can be a form style in a resto?

Reprinted paintings from famous artists.are mantled on coffee tables.

Vintage objects are peppered everywhere.

Cafe Alezon started out as a cafe catering only to friends only then through word of mouth they evolved into an events place slash bistro slash cafe.

From time to time, bands would perform there and artists would gather up and enjoy each conversations over sumptuous food paired with wine and beverages.  So there's an al fresco area, the cafe and a corridor leading to a more private dining area.

And there's one of my favorite piece, this communal table from reclaimed old wooden door, lavished with painted cement tiles, though not the Machuca.  There are two of these table kind, the one in the foyer has Machuca, this and the one at the cafe has Malaga tiles on the door, err, table.  

Malaga tiles, another local business, is under the Habitiles, a company who also specializes in manufacturing baldozas y azulejos de cemento.  Now I can't get over those tiles, and we are planning to renovate our kitchen.  I'm not gonna steal their design, though I'm sure their not going to mind, but I love that I now know where to get these colorful tiles.  Will definitely do a separate blog on that once I've visited the showroom.

Another well-loved element of Cafe Alezon are the repro batibot chairs and uniquely-made coffee tables.  Batibot chairs have been making a comeback.  Do you know that "Batibot" means 'small but strong and sturdy'?  These were popular in the country in the late 1950's to early 1960's.

The cafe was named after Venjoy's brother who succumbed to cancer,  I should have asked more about who the late Alezon is and why a gem of a place was named after him. Perhaps he brought so much inspiration to the owners, or it is a way of honoring his life despite the tragic cancer.

Now that I have given you a glimpse of the place through my camera's lens, it's time to tell you how we had a jolt of wonder through its offerings.

Their menu is probably one of the simplest I've seen from all of the restos I've been to, but I'm saying it in a good way.  Simple as it is, it has all the comforting food you'd ever need for a filling snack or heavy meal.  The menu is a mix of Italian and Mexican cuisine.  You can choose from a variety of  pastas, pizzas, Mexican staples, rice meals, beverages and of course some sweets.

Bhogs and I started of our meal with a refreshing glass of  mango shake and cilantro shake.   You might have probably noticed the tile-topped table, I've been mentioning.  See how vibrant yet vintage-y they are and how the eclectic ensemble contrast the refurbished wood?  All the elements really tie up so well, including the use of mason ball jars to carry the beverages.

One that's really unique to their menu is the Turkish coffee.  Aside from the authenticity of their beans they also made sure they make it perfectly well as how a true Turkish national would prepare it.  Good thing a Turkish guy came by to eat and saw they are serving Turkish coffee.  Having tasted the coffee, he told them that he'd come back and teach them how to do it the proper traditional way, sure enough he returned the following day and did what he promised.

Don't be surprised if it'll be served on a tiny cup, but it definitely goes a long way.  Having Turkish coffee assumes a no rush indulgence so the Turks say.  It was rather strong and rich, yet unlike an Italian espresso, it has that froth on the top that makes it distinct and the aroma was just so captivating, it's from the cardamom that was infused to the brew.  The cardamom gives out the same spice effect as the cinnamon does, but still different.

We also had Nachos y Salsa.  There's nothing too fancy with this one but just knowing that everything were made from scratch is just the niftiest thing to do when you are in the food business.

My leverage for a good restaurant serving a good pasta is a basic pomodoro sauce in pasta or the pesto.  I was taken aback when I saw whole pine nuts on the Pesto pasta plate.  I make pesto at home a lot of times, but I make sure the pine nuts are well grounded to the pesto mix and making sure it adheres to all of the ingredients.  So basically, you don't really get to appreciate the nuts, plus the fact that it's expensive, so it really came a surprise to us seeing a lot of these nuts on the pesto.  It added to the crunch and texture of the whole dish.  And YEY to the parmesan generously dredged all over the plate.  It's really a bang in your buck for P250.

The well-seasoned pasta dish isn't oily but the pesto clung to the pasta so much that both complemented each other perfectly in every mouthful.  The herb-y taste is not the "in your face" pesto, it has a rather milder version of the pesto sauce I'm accustomed to, I reckon it's not purely basil, though I'm pretty sure kids would love them as much as the adults have.

Let me reiterate that choosing from the menu is the easiest way to do here, All pasta cost P250, and all the pizzas at P500, all you need to do is go with your instinct or do the "mini-miney-mo" way of choosing.  Since we asked for a rice meal, I chose Margherita as our pizza.  

Even the pizza seemed to resemble a work of art in symmetry and flavor.  At first the couple owner deliberated whether to make a crusty edges that are without toppings, however the guy won and had it his way, equally topped right to the very edge, thus nothing went to waste.  

It's thin crust can be likened to Shakey's only Alezon's is better and not too salty like the latter.

The cafe's best-seller is the Tamarind Chicken.  I have to admit I was drawn to it when I saw it in the menu under the Rice Meal category.  The plate is a familiar scene of rice, viand and salad.  The chicken was fried after being soaked in a tamarind marinade and served with atsara and a bowl of rice.  The chicken had that balance of tangy and sweet glazed over it, and the play with slightly crisp on the outside and tender inside is something Bhogs might have imagined me cooking it at my kitchen.

Also under the rice meal list is the Paella.  Even for a rice-aversed person, this would be a delight.  My top Paella would be from Galli Village Cafe which I have had long enough at the verge of forgetting about it.  Enter Alezon's.  Though this could be my congenial compensation on days of terrible traffic at the Albang-Zapote Rd.

It took us a while to dig in, cautious of ruining such a beautiful dish of spiced rice, meat, fresh seafood and veggies.  The savory and wholesome rice dish can equally trump upscale Paelle serving restos.

After devouring a fete, it's time for dessert and more conversing.  Anna Marie Alegre was so gracious enough to serve us while telling us stories of how the cafe evolved and how nearby restos would buy off their tortilla recipe.  

She was so kind enough to have us try samples of their dessert offerings.  And when the tray loaded up with delectable sweet comfort came to our beautiful table, we were all ready to sing a paean.  My heart skipped a beat and whispered Hallelujah.  

Surprises come in many unwrapped gifts, like this Smores Tortilla.  Who would have thought that you can make a dessert out of tortilla.  Genius!  Evenly coated with melted marshmallow and topped with nuts, white chocolate chips and chocolate syrup mizzled - making this place truly a kid-friendly place.

Cookie shots anyone?  I'm sure you won't say no!  Perfectly molded cookies from shot glasses, crusted with a thin layer of chocolate inside can be anyone's reward or consolation.  Served with fresh milk, though the experience can be elevated by having a warm milk poured on the cookie shots.

The not-so densely creamy cheesecake with its equally appealing choco-cookie crust is smudged with more chocolatey goodness.  It has that precise harmony between the sweet and tart.  I hope they could serve a fruity variant of this next time.

Cafe Alezon is one of those diamonds in the rough, a wonderful gem that almost a few have noticed in BF Homes.  It's high time to veer away from the crawling place that is Aguirre St.  and go up farther to BF International which is in Las Pinas.  

Do follow them in Facebook and Instagram to see updates and more info.

Cafe Alezon

Address:   146 Tropical Avenue, BF Homes
                  Las PiƱas

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