The Adarna Experience

It was my first time to experience a different kind of Filipino dinner. It all happened in Adarna Food and Culture Restaurant located at Kalayaan Avenue in Diliman, Quezon City. The place was not a perfect example of an old-style Spanish era house; it was more of a post-American type of structure adorned with several pre and post Spanish colonial house items such as capiz shell windows and old tapestries as well as American and Japanese colonial themed mementos.

The restaurant itself is a mixture of all the influences we adopted over several centuries ago that clearly makes up of the Filipino in every one of us. It was simply a night to remember, seeing all the old furniture sets, the mini sari-sari store which is truly a Filipino thing, an American vintage jukebox, and many more photos and hand paintings depicting the rich culture of the Philippines.

After a short tour of what was inside the Adarna Restaurant, we were welcomed to a big dining room area filled with more Spanish colonial inspired items – which helped me reminisce more of my cultural heritage in Cebu and my happy childhood memories with my grandmother and my great grandmother.

I was expecting a different kind of Filipino meal, and my intuition was right. The dinner was opened with several drinks, where one of them made a mark amongst us: the Bignay, a Filipino wine with tartness close to vinegar. It is a rice wine, and they actually served two types that night. The second version was better than the first as there was less tartness in it.

Soon after, the Pancit Molo was served. The molo wrapped meatballs were really good, except for the warm broth which is a bit salty. Still, it was warm enough, perfect for a rainy night. The Crispy Dilis came next, which is similar to anchovies, only smaller and crispier. To close the appetizer part, they served this what I call, the perfect Filipino salad called Sigarilyas Salad – it could’ve been better if it was served with bagnet bits.
Then, the happiest part came where the steamed pandan rice, Fried Vegetable Lumpia, and Dinakdakan were almost served at the same time. The lumpia was filled with sweet local squash, garbanzos, bean sprouts, and carrots – perfect with spiced vinegar. The Dinakdakan was not as promising as expected though it has an overly smoked (close to burnt) taste and a little bit under seasoned.

More steamed rice were served with the next two unforgettable food items: the Gising-Gising and the Chicken Relleno with Salsa Monja. I love leafy vegetables and coconut milk in my Filipino food, I wish the Gising-Gising was a little bit spicy. The Chicken Relleno has this almost-perfect taste, but I easily detected the garlic used in the relleno has been sitting in the chillers and has been peeled for days. Still, these two main dishes served made me realize the diversity of Adarna’s menu choices. I can say that 80% of their menu came from different culinary regions in Luzon. All of these main dishes were served in a classical Filipino way with some little western influences especially on the dessert part of the dinner.

And now to close the dinner, we were served this delectable dish made of kesong puti and ripe jackfruit drizzled with mango puree called “Kesong Puti & Langka Fry” where sweet and salty flavors burst in your mouth. The last dessert item served was a modified and westernized version of a local treat we call “Turon” – the name of the dessert is “Banana Caramello” which brought me memories of my childhood. I am fond of eating bananas with peanut butter and most kids my age during that time find disgusting. It is an acquired taste of mine and I really enjoyed the last meal served. The dessert items are worthy of the term “modern Filipino” cuisine in terms of ingredients used and the inspiration used in creating the two dishes.

Overall, my Adarna experience was great. I am looking forward to try more of their Filipino dishes – as this will help and inspire me to create a standalone Filipino Cuisine after my culinary studies. I share this dream with the rest of the Filipino chefs around the world. Kudos to Adarna Restaurant!