As a foodie, I have my own bucket list of must-visit restaurants, one of which is an ancestral home-turned-restaurant in Malate by the name of Lolo Dad's Café. Tucked in the corner of Quirino Avenue, this fine dining destination is owned by the Ayuyao family and headed by renowned Chef Ariel Manuel together with his award-winning team.
Ever since I first heard of Lolo Dad's Café, I have always wondered why they named the restaurant as such. Turns out, this ancestral home used to be the old house cum office of Atty. Conrado “Dodo” Ayuyao who was fondly called by his granddaughter, Lolo Dad. By February 14, 2000, the house was converted into the restaurant that we know today -- a foodie's haven, a dating spot, and a home to Lolo Dad's favorite gustatory delights.
Upon entering Lolo Dad's Café, I can't help but notice the relaxing atmosphere with its warm ambient lighting. You'll really feel that this restaurant is somewhere peaceful, away from the busy streets of Quirino and Taft Avenue. Then, there's also an open kitchen where you'll get to see Chef Manuel and his team in action. A truly wonderful sight!
We started off our meal with a complimentary basket of bread and butter. And while I don't generally go gaga for free bread, it was a different story with Lolo Dad's Café's freshly-baked dinner rolls. They were so soft, airy and with a slight crisp on their beautiful brown crust. Paired with the restaurant's savory butter spread, these were simple yet very satisfying treats perfect to start a meal. I actually got to eat three pieces that night!
To whet our appetite even more, we had some Baked Oyster on Angel Hair Pasta with silvers of seared Duck Foie Gras (P160 per piece). I know, I know, paying over a hundred per piece is really expensive especially if you're a big eater. However, this beautiful gustatory baby is one of the most delightful creation I've ever had. I love oysters and foie gras, but I never thought they'd taste more wonderful when combined!
Next, I had an order of Soft-Shell Crab Fritters on Gribiche Sauce with Dungeness Crab, Mango and Cucumber Salad (P378) in modest portion. The fritters were so crunchy on the outside and soft, savory and packed with seafood goodness on the inside, while the salad didn't only taste fresh and summery but was also very flavorful.
We were then served with the Double Espresso Soup (P350), a cup each of cream of mushroom and tomato with salted fleuron sticks. Between these two, I preferred the savory cream of mushroom soup as it had just the right flavor to be sipped on its own. However, the tomato soup was probably the better dip for the accompanying pastry.
Before we had the main course, we were first served with a Calamansi Sorbet sitting atop a clay pot filled with dry ice. First of all, I love how adorable the presentation was. The teapot and the smoke, they made eating the sorbet more interesting. And second, I love how refreshing the sorbet actually is. It has just the right blend of sweet, tangy and zesty, serving its purpose as an effective palate cleanser, while still being a yummy treat.
For the main course, I had the Confit of Kurobota Pork Belly, Arborio Rice with Chorizo, Prosciutto and Pancetta, Garlic Aioli and Melocoton (P650) in modest portion, as personally recommended by Chef Ariel. This plate of Kurobota pork belly is definitely a winner especially for pork lovers like me. The meat is so tender, so moist and so succulent that cutting it to smaller pieces was a breeze. It also had a straight-forward taste, savory but nothing too overbearing for the palate, making it a perfect viand to go with the flavorful Arborio rice which was somehow a cross between paella and risotto.
For a sweet ending to our pleasurable dinner, I got the Sampler of Chocolates (P260) in modest portion, a platter of white chocolate off-mold brûlée, dark chocolate terrine, chocolate flan, white chocolate, caramel ice cream and berries. And when this long plate of goodies was served, I was surprised 'cause it seemed so big for one person to finish. If this is just the modest serving, then how big is the regular one? But of course, we still managed to clean the plate off since every treat on this serving is so chocolatey! My personal favorites though would be the chocolates on the upper-left and upper-right.
Some might perceive gourmet dining as mere food sampling to satisfy the palate and not the tummy. However, my experience at Lolo Dad's Café can prove that even with modest portions, you can still leave the place happy and full. In fact, General Manager Ding Ayuyao even recommends to order the modest servings so diners can enjoy multiple-course meals without stretching both the stomach and the wallet too much. And with a cozy and romantic ambiance, impeccable service and excellent selection of culinary masterpieces, a trip to Lolo Dad's Café, even just once, is definitely a must!
Ambiance - 4/5
Service - 4/5
Price - 3/5
Overall Value - 4/5
Lolo Dad's Café, Malate
899 President Quirino Ave. cor. Leon Guinto St.,
(02) 522-2941; 524-2295; 526-7151