Eating has been one of my most irresistible guilty pleasures in life. Although I have already packed on unwanted weight for indulging in various gustatory delights in almost a daily basis, I just can't say no to good food especially when it's a wide array of comfort dishes like what Naci generously offers in Connecticut Street, Greenhills.
Located in the second floor of Fox Square Building, Naci is a 7-month old haven for foodies who just want to enjoy good comfort food without stretching the budget too much. Owned by Ms. Nadine Nocom, Naci which is named after her restaurateur-father Mr. Nacy Nocom, prides itself on serving a variety of creative dishes meant to be shared with good company in a homey atmosphere, and with friendly and attentive service.
Staying true to Naci's promise, every guest walking in to the restaurant can enjoy the cozy interiors and earth-toned colors of the 220-square foot dining destination. Having a seating capacity for approximately 120 guests, Naci does not only exude a homey ambiance, but can also excite diners with a wall of award-winning international wines, and an open patisserie.
Of course, foodies like myself cannot simply sit and appreciate the calming environment of Naci without sampling the best-selling dishes of this comfort food and dessert bar. So to start our food adventure at Naci was a beautiful Appetizer Sampler (P380).
This generous platter of Naci's best-selling appetizers had the really sumptuous samplers of Chorizo and Brie Puffs (P380) which are baked cream puffs filled with Spanish chorizo, brie cheese and bananas, and Beef Taco Spring Rolls (P210) which are crispy spring rolls filled with a Mexican beef taco filling and served with tomato salsa and sour cream. These two bite-sized meal starters were my favorite in the bunch which also included some Junior Crabcakes (P280) -- shallow-fried sautéed crabmeat croquettes with remoulade and petite greens, and deep-fried and glazed Buffalo Chicken Wings (P295).
For a light follow-up, our group enjoyed three of Naci's salads -- Kani Mango Crunch Salad (P200), Smoked Salmon Salad (P290), and Fried Chicken Macaroni Salad (P250).
This Japanese-inspired Kani Mango Crunch Salad filled with layers of assorted greens, crabsticks, ripe mangoes, cucumber, crispy wonton and vermicelli and generously drizzled with wasabi mayo, was very light and refreshing on the palate.
Unlike the previous dish, this Smoked Salmon Salad was simple yet so irresistibly good as it carried bold flavors of the mixed greens, smoked salmon and Parmesan shavings which were tossed in a honey-lemon dill dressing.
Although not as great as the first two salads, the Fried Chicken Macaroni which had marinated crispy chicken cutlets sitting beneath a macaroni salad, was a filling dish with a light and a very safe blend of flavors.
After a light start, it was finally time to move on and try Naci's Filipino-fusion pasta offerings -- Nadine's Adobo Cannelloni (P300) and Beef Caldereta Lasagna (P310).
Nadine's Adobo Cannelloni had classic flaked adobo rolled in pasta and topped with béchamel-laced adobo sauce and mozzarella. The Beef Caldereta Lasagna on the other hand, had layers of homemade pasta and beef caldereta filling topped with mozarella. Although this trip to Naci was the first time I've seen Filipino dishes made into pasta, the fusion of classic Filipino entrées and Italian pasta-cooking techniques worked perfectly!
Following suit after we've tapped a portion of Italian cuisine through the Filipino-fusion pasta dishes we had, was the Peking Chicken Pizza (P495) which had generous toppings of flaked roasted chicken, hoisin tomato sauce, Chinese sausages, shitake mushrooms and cheese. Although pizza is originally Italian, the Peking Chicken Pizza was an explosion of bold Chinese flavors atop a crispy thin-crusted pizza.
Not being stereotypical here, but as an Asian, a rice dish is always a must when we're talking about comfort foods. And to satisfy our carb craving, we had the Peruvian Chicken Rice (P350) -- slow-cooked baked rice with chicken chunks and sautéed capsicums, topped with aioli. Although Naci's version is not an authentic paella, this rice dish is as satisfying taste-wise.
Although we've already tried a lot of sumptuous dishes at Naci, our festive dinner was still starting when it comes to sampling main entrées.
We first had Nate's Steak and Eggs (P385) -- seared beef patty stacked over parsley rice, topped with fried egg and onion rings and served with chunky mushroom gravy. Although this dish looks really presentable, the beef patty was not something I'd go gaga for. Even my companions find this so-so, if not for the savory mushroom gravy.
Although the steak and eggs failed to impress our taste buds, what came in after were some of the best dishes I've ever had. The Garlic Rosemary Chicken (P420) which is grilled chicken marinated in rosemary and served with gravy, buttered vegetables and mashed potatoes, was very tender, moist and distinctly flavored with the comforting pine-like taste and aroma of rosemary.
The Fox Square Fish Fillet (P360) which is a beautifully-plated selection of pan-seared marinated fish fillet topped with fried banana slices and served with crispy potato wedges and lemon butter sauce, was also a very flavorful treat both for the eyes and for the palate.
However, the best main entrées for the evening would undoubtedly be the sinfully good Bistek Lechon Kawali (P280) -- double-fried crispy pork belly served with Pinoy classic bistek sauce, and Chef Ed's Pork Shank (P480) -- onion soup-braised French-cut pork shank topped with melted cheese, which literally falls off the bone and is truly a masterpiece of executive chef Ed Quimson.
After exclaiming countless ooh's and ahh's with every bite of Naci's wonderful food offerings, we didn't let the evening pass without trying out the dessert selection of this glorious food gem in San Juan.
Left: Cream Puff, Chocolate Fondant, Caramel Cream, Pistachio Chocolate and Red Velvet Cupcakes
Right: Blueberry, Mango and Razz Cheesecakes, Coconut, Black & White and Banana Walnut Cupcakes
We were served with two beautiful platters of very enticing mini cakes and cupcakes. And although I can seriously assure you that each one of these are worth ordering, there was one which really, really stood out -- the Black and White Premium Cupcake which had silky and cracking chocolate glaze-coated dark Belgian chocolate ganache atop a dense vanilla cupcake.
Next to The Lobby at Acacia's glorious moist chocolate cake, the Black and White Premium Cupcake is one of the best cake-based desserts I've ever had.
If you've read this lengthy restaurant review from top to bottom, you've probably gone tired of the word "beautiful". However, as much as I wanted to use other adjectives, "beautiful" perfectly describes the food and everything else we had at Naci. Yes, even their restroom had a lovely ambiance and comforting minty smell.
Seriously, almost every single dish we got to sample looked and tasted beautiful to our senses. Coupled with great service in a very homey restaurant, Naci delivered an ultimate comfort dining experience which greatly surpassed our expectations.
Ambiance - 4/5
Service - 4/5
Price - 3/5
Overall Value - 4/5
Naci Comfort Food & Dessert Bar, San Juan
2/F Fox Square Bldg., 53 Connecticut St., Greenhills
San Juan City, Metro Manila