Tikka Chance on Me : Little Bear Diner in Kapitolyo, Pasig

"Oh my dhal-ling Paul, you really turn me naan. For 15 years, only you holds the ghee to my heart. One things for sure, there's never a dhal moment with you."

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Excuse the cheese but that, my friends, was my winning entry to Booky's recent Instagram contest. I chanced upon the contest while I was browsing through Facebook and it was for a restaurant in Kapitolyo called Little Bear Diner which recently revamped its menu and now serves interesting Kerala-style dishes. I've been craving for good Indian food as it's been a year since we came home from Singapura so I was so motivated to join. I got to admit that the other entries were so witty that I never thought I'd stand a chance. Well, a week ago, I got a message telling me that I won the contest. Yay! Guess the judges appreciated my cheeziness.

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So, after spotting an opportunity to have a quick lunch date while the twins were with their grandparents, Paul and I made a reservation via Booky for our lunch at Little Bear Diner. We quickly got the confirmation and boy, did I started dreaming about biryani, butter chicken and papadum. As we walked into the tiny, cozy-looking restaurant (which, by the way, was formerly occupied by Thai Dara), we were warmly welcomed by partners Pam and Pau. I love their partnership! Pau rules over the kitchen while Pam takes care of the front of the house. Pretty Pam told us about her Indian lineage and how they got recipes from her grandmother in India as well as ingredients are sourced there as well. Talk about authentic! She has a very warm and hospitable nature that will surely make guests fell right at home. Pau, on the other hand, is more soft-spoken but she truly is a kitchen goddess! I was so surprised when she told us that she didn't took up any formal culinary course but wow, her dishes would make you think otherwise.

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Contrary to most Indian restaurants in the country which are dimly lit and are adorned with very traditional Indian decors, Little Bear Diner played with chic decor pieces as well as this "pun"-ny signage which you'll surely catch as you enter the restaurant. It's a small restaurant which can probably seat 8 at the ground floor and 12 at the second floor. The stairs are very steep so I don't recommend groups with seniors to be seated up there. Given the small space, this allows for more interaction with the owners as you can just chitchat while enjoying your meal.

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Since we won the contest, the owners have prepared a nice lunch set for us worth Php. 1,500. I didn't mind though as I really wanted to just try their specialties and this will give me a good idea of what to order again on my next visit. Our lunch began with Pau's specialty -- the Spicy Toro (Php. 245). Yes, I was a bit confused there. It's an Indian-inspired restaurant but toro is Japanese. Apparently, before they have revamped their menu, Chef Pau has been served Asian fusion dishes and this is one that her patrons would repeatedly order. One bite and I instantly understood why, I love the crunchy nori sheet which served as the bed for a generous portion of fresh ahi tuna belly sashimi, poke sauce, spicy mayo and microgreens. It's the best appetizer and one that I'll surely order in every visit.

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This was followed by the Kerala Beef Naan Tacos (Php. 285). Pam's family hails from Kerala, India so the dishes here are different as opposed to the more popular Northern Indian food such as your Butter Chicken or Tandoori Chicken. Southern Indian cuisine or Kerala in particular makes use of more spices and less sauce. Prior to this visit, I got to admit that the only thing I know about Kerala is their KFC or their Kerala Fried Chicken which is a popular street food item. I'm glad that Little Bear Diner is educating the public that there's more to Indian cooking than curries, naan and tandooris.

Going back to the Kerala Beef Naan Taco, this is delicious! One order comes with two soft "tacos" and it's packed with so much beef, spices rice puffs and onions. Wrap it up carefully and take one big bite after the other. It's so good! If you find it a bit too spicy for your taste, ask for some yogurt to help keep the heat at bay.

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Moving on, we had the Pumpkin Makhani (Php. 425). Who says vegetarians can't have "steak"? This is the perfect answer to that. Roasted pumpkin steaks on makhani sauce, nuts and cream cheese. The sauce has a sweet flavor similar to that of the Butter Chicken. I took a bite of those small crunchy looking bits and I loved it! Apparently these are nuts and it gives a good texture contrast to the smooth and silky pumpkin. This is a very filling dish and I can't imagine how one can finish this. I highly recommend this for sharing.

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To wrap up our meal, we had Ama's Chicken Biryani (Php. 395). This dish made me soooo happy! I love biryani and no Indian meal will ever be complete without it. Not only that, it came with Pam's family papad which her aunt makes and ships all the way from India. Another winning dish! A filling bowl of garam masala spiced biryani rice with grilled chicken and caramelized onions. Served with yogurt and papadum. Next to the Spicy Toro, this was the highlight of our meal! I love the addition of the caramelized onions which I think made it really unique. The papad/papadum was done the Kerala-way so it has a different taste to the usual papadum that I used to snack on in Singapore. This one was equally just as yummy too! I hope Pam and Pau would eventually decide to sell their papad so we can enjoy this at home or while on the road.

People always have that common misconception that Indian food is spicy. A visit to Little Bear Diner will give you a different perspective where you'll see how the use of these Indian spices can liven up your taste buds and not burn it.

Visit Little Bear Diner at 28 East Capitol Drive, Kapitolyo Pasig. Call them at +63917-8190650.

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