Monday, February 29, 2016

Karen's Kitchen in Kapitolyo, Pasig

My friend A and I have known each other since we were in 5th grade. That means, our friendship goes as far back when we were 10 and if you do the math, that means, we've been good friends for 23 years already! That's more than two decades it's really amazing how we continue to stay in touch all throughout these years. We've been there for each other through high school, university life, when we both started working, when I met Paul and she met D, when we both got engaged, when we got married, when she had a baby and even up until the present that Paul and I migrated out of the country. We may not get to talk on a daily basis but it's really the quality of those conversations that we've had where we can easily pick up from where we have left off.

During our recent trip home, A and I agreed to go out on a double date with our hubbies. We haven't seen D for so long so it was a nice opportunity for all of us to catch up. A chose the place and she suggested Karen's Kitchen in Kapitolyo. I was so excited as I've been hearing so much about their famous chocolate cake and more so when I told my best friends T and E that I'm heading there for dinner, T started raving about (Auntie) Karen's cooking.

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Stepping inside Karen's Kitchen will immediately give you that homey, cozy feel. It's like visiting one of your auntie's place and having her prepare a good meal for you. It's like spending a lot of time with your aunt and talking to her about everything and anything under the sun. As Paul and I were parking the car, I immediately saw Auntie Karen peering out of the door. I've never experienced any of the restaurant owners personally greeting us at the door. That's how personalize the service was. Her warm smile and friendly personality were just so endearing. We have just exchanged our hi's and hellos and it immediately made me feel like I've known Auntie Karen all my life. She led us into her pretty restaurant and towards our table. Our table was actually a Singer sewing table converted into a nice table for 4. She also shared the story behind the interesting 100-year-old oven/stove that fits perfectly in her restaurant.

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Pretty soon, A and D have arrived and Auntie Karen excused herself to get to work in the kitchen. First came the Onsen Egg Salad (Php. 245) which was a very pretty salad with fresh arugula, walnuts, tomatoes, mango slices, parmesan crisp and of course, the Japanese soft-boiled egg to be broken on top. The dressing tasted very much like balsamic vinaigrette and it complemented the salad very well.

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Next was the Summer Garden Crispizza (Php. 285). Now, I wasn't initially sure if I'll love this as I was told that it was topped with all sorts of veggies (kale, basil sauce, zucchini, artichoke) and cheese. However, one bite. Yes, one bite was all it took for me to fall in love with it. The veggies were not over-powering and it was just perfectly light, healthy and yummy all at the same time. So, when A asked if we wanted to order more, I shamelessly nodded my head in agreement.

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Next was the Bagoong Blue Pea Rice (Php. 465). When this was brought to our table, the first word that came out of my mouth was "WOW".  I love how it was beautifully plated on a white heart-shaped plate. As opposed to other bagoong rice which resembled a fried rice, this one had ingredients carefully arranged right beside each other. I tell you, this is an OCD work of art. The best way to enjoy this though is to mix it all up before digging in. That way, you get the right amount of green mango strips, tomatoes, egg, onions and what we both think is fried catfish. It was really delicious and well couldn't stop raving about it.

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To go with the rice, we had Scallops (Php. 225) which was so yummy! Actually, it can be eaten alone or with the Bagoong Rice.

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A and D are the best hosts as always! Look how they just kept the food coming that it could barely fit into our small table. Following the rice, we had her signature Mushroom Truffle Pasta (Php. 395) which they'd very thoughtfully divided into 4. I think it's best to share this to give you more tummy space to enjoy more dishes. Make sure to order this was it was so good. Each bite will give you a burst of truffle aroma.

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We also tried the Dalandan Chicken with Turmeric Rice (Php. 325), you have to order this in advance as they require 1.5 hours to prepare this. I was already so full so I barely touched this. I tried a bit of the chicken though and the meat was so tender.

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Our last main dish was the US Angus Beef Salpicao (Php. 845) which we enjoyed with the Bagoong Rice. Not bad but I think the beef can a bit more tender.

Before visiting Karen's Kitchen, my friend T told me that Auntie Karen sings very well and this was validated by A too. After begging asking Auntie Karen, she finally said yes and treated us to a nice song number. Check it out below!

Oh what a filling meal! Before heading to dessert, our server cleaned up our table and cleared all the plates. At this point, we were the only customers in the restaurant yet we never felt that the servers are rushing us to finish our meal. This is what I love about Karen's Kitchen aside from it's delicious dishes -- it's friendly and very efficient service.

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For dessert, we had Auntie Karen's signature Scones (Php. 145) with cream and jam. I skipped the cream but enjoyed my warm slice of scones with berry jelly.

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Last was the Frozen Ube-cado Brazo which my mom will surely love. The combination of ube (purple yam) and avocado was just so good! Since I couldn't wait for my parents to also have a bite (or two) of Auntie Karen's creation, I brought home a box of her famous Chocolate Ganache for them to enjoy. That surely made Mommy's day!

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Enjoying the food is one thing that makes your dining experience special but what really completes it is the service and the feeling it gives you after your step out after a meal. The service here at Karen's Kitchen, I have to say, is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. It's a cozy neighborhood restaurant but the service is similar to a fine-dining one. I've lost count the number of times our super efficient server offered to change our plates. And look at this beautiful tea set which she brought out after clearing our last plates before serving us our desserts. It really does feel like you're eating at your aunt's house, who's the most gracious hostess, right? I can't wait to go back to Karen's Kitchen on my next visit home.

Check out Karen's Kitchen at 17A San Rafael street, Pasig City, Metro Manila. Call them at 696-3332.

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