Worth the Wait : Lolo Dad's Cafe in Malate, Manila

I feel very lucky that I have a grandfather who's an excellent cook. He can whip up even the most complicated Chinese dish for his family of 5 kids and 7 grandchildren to enjoy. Kongkong, as we call him, was first introduced to the kitchen during the World War II. Together with his siblings, they were abducted by the Japanese invaders and while my other grand uncles were put to do rigorous work; my Kongkong, being the Mr. PR that he is has immediately endeared himself to the Japanese who made him a kitchen assistant at a very young age.

From that day on, he continued to find enjoyment in cooking and eventually influenced my Mom to have that same love for cooking as well. Kongkong even once opened his very own restaurant and I still have that photo of that one-year-old me happily sitting on top of the cashier counter.

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Mommy always tells me that I take after my Kongkong especially when it comes to our love for food. I initially didn't quite believe her but it was when I spent an afternoon with my grandparents and after engaging in a three-hour-long conversation with my Kongkong about food, food and more food -- I realized that my Mom was so right. We talked about the best noodle house in town, how to make his signature Pata Tim and how he excitedly recommended that I try Lolo Dad's Cafe with Paul soon. That has been more than 5 years ago but I continue to put Lolo Dad's Cafe as part of my restaurants to try list at the start of every year.

Thus, it felt so surreal as I walked along the garden path of Lolo Dad's towards the big heavy wooden door last Saturday. Paul and I went out on a double date with friends Richard and Irene and we were all so excited to finally try Lolo Dad's Cafe. After all, it has been years in the making (and waiting) for all four of us. 

Lolo Dad's Cafe exudes this traditional Filipino ambiance with wooden flooring, photos of local heroes on the wall and heavy wooden chairs and tables. We were immediately ushered to our table and were handed the big folder-type menu. The list was pretty short yet it took us a while to finally make our choice. They also have a tasting menu for those who really couldn't decide what to get. We initially wanted to try that but I backed out upon seeing that there's foie gras and sheep included in the line up. Oops!

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After giving our orders, we were served with a basket of warm bread and our own roasted garlic butter spread. The spread was delicious, save for the overly toasted garlic that gives a bit of bitter taste, yet I liked this very much.

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I wanted to get more bread but I had to stop myself knowing that I have to save enough space for our main dishes up ahead.

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Paul and I decided to share a bowl of Gourmet salad of Langoustine and Prawns (Php. 490+). I was immediately drawn towards the two seafood items included in the salad and I'm glad Paul agreed with me. The serving was big and definitely was good for two. I love the crisp lettuce mixed with savory mushroom, feta cheese, Kalamata olives and of course the plump pieces of prawns and langoustine. At first glance, the lagoustine looks very much like the prawns however the difference is the presence of the antennae and a harder shell. To me it looks like a baby lobster. It was a delicious salad and I'm glad that we chose this.

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Before heading to our main course, we were served with Lolo Dad's signature Raspberry Sorbet. It was served in a small teapot with dry ice coming out from the spout. I wonder what will happen if I rub the teapot..would a genie come out and grant me three wishes?

The sorbet was refreshing and I enjoyed the hint of basil which complemented the sweet raspberry taste. It was a great palate cleanser making me more excited for my main dishes coming up next.

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Paul and I decided to share our main dishes. My husband, the meat lover, got the Herb de Provence Crusted Rack of Lamb (Php. 1,340+) which was served with Roquefort cheese risotto and Forty melted Garlic -Tomato confit. I was able to try the risotto and loved the strong taste of bleu cheese -- something I've never tried with risotto before. The meat was tender and it was grilled perfectly just the way we liked it. I was given the wrong knife but I happily sliced into my lamb until I cleaned the bone out.

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My choice was the Halibut with Sauteed Prawns (Php. 990) which was also a winner. I loved the tender Halibut fillet that literally melts in your mouth. Paul also enjoyed the juicy sauteed prawns too. This was served with stuffed Rigatoni pasta which I think was filled with creamy mashed potato. Definitely worth the price!

For years, I've been hearing that a meal in Lolo Dad's Cafe would cost you no less than Php. 2,000 per head. Well, I was surprised that our total bill amounted to just Php. 2,800 and that's already for the two of us. Service was amazing and the food obviously blew us away. To date, I continue to dream of the delicious lamb and tender Halibut and I wish that we can go back soon.

Now I know why my Kongkong loves this restaurant. It has this charm that keeps you wanting to go back for more. Hats off to Chef Ariel Manuel for being able to maintain the high standards of Lolo Dad's Cafe.

Our visit, indeed, was truly worth the wait.

*photo credit: Paul Ang (Raspberry sorbet and main course)

Lolo Dad's Cafe is located at 899 Pres. Qurino Ave. cor. Leon Guinto St., Malate Manila. Make a reservation first by calling them at 522-2941, 524-2295, 526-7151.

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