Rediscovering Asiong’s Restaurant

Fed-up, tired and cloying from staying indoor due to the pandemic, me and 3 of my close colleagues decided to sneak out of the metro.  Despite the continuous spike in coronavirus cases, we agreed to break the monotony of staying in our respective houses and drove up to the scenic city-province of Tagaytay, an hour and a half drive south of Manila just to have lunch. 

We nevertheless took extra precautions prior to leaving the metro.  We were wearing face-masks and face-shields, brought along bottles of alcohol and I even have a huge pack of disinfecting surface wipes!

But only about five minutes away from our destination, we encountered a highway check point.  To make the story short, we were prevented from entering Tagaytay because we do not have the local government’s required travel pass to enter the province.  Yeah, this is how strict it is here in the Philippines due to this ridiculous pandemic.

We made a U turn yet decided to still have lunch someplace else.  And when I turned on Google to check for the nearest highly recommended restaurant, it responded ‘Asiong’s’.

I remember having dined at Asiong’s in the past.  I know that the food is really good but the atmosphere is something I really do not admire especially that moment when it would be the first time after a very long time of not dining out.  I know Asiong’s is not even a casual dining restaurant but some sort of a low-grade canteen or a roadside eatery which in the Philippines is called carinderia.

I nevertheless still suggested to proceed to Asiong’s because of their great food!  But I warned my colleagues that the ambiance is not like the typical snooty restaurants found in Tagaytay.

But when we followed and let the GPS navigation app point us to our destination, the road we were taking was totally different.  It seem no longer the same road I took when I last dined at Asiong’s eight long years ago.  (Click HERE regarding my 2012 blog post about Asiong’s)

pose first (the obligatory photo taking session)

a collage of photos i took (with jb, willy and mj)

The location of Asiong’s now is a totally different spot in Cavite!  And the establishment is totally dissimilar from the way it was!  The concept and its aesthetics has impressively been improved.  Their alfresco dining is no longer by the dusty road side but a cool garden dining set-up.  We actually settled alfresco for we did not want to be confined in a closed area during this time of pandemic.

The only akin and parallel to how Asiong’s was in the past was the marvelous food!  The awesome gastronomic experience was still the same.

asado de ignacio (braised meat and innards) an authentic savage caviteño dish

adobong pula (pork adobo in annatto sauce)… a must in asiong’s

pancit pusit (rice vermicelli noodles cooked in squid ink)… a house specialty

crispy tawilis (a fresh water sardine exclusively found in the philippines)… this dish is gone in 3 minutes!

a filipino meal will not be complete without the rice. this one is “binagoongang rice” (fried rice in shrimp paste)

Thanks to the valiant military men manning the highway check point. Hahaha!  If not for their being so rigorous in implementing the pandemic rules and protocols of the province, I would have not rediscovered the fineness of the present Asiong’s restaurant.

Authentic Caviteño Dishes

According to an article in Bites on Today, Andrew Zimmern predicts that come 2014 Filipino food is the next big thing in America.  While we wait for this prediction to finally be realized let me inform all those who will have the chance to come across this blog that an authentic and heavenly set of Filipino cuisine does exist in Cavite City.

Last Wednesday I had the awesome opportunity to dine and try out a number of delightfully genuine Caviteño dishes served in Asiong’s Carinderia.  Located at 719 P Paterno Street, Caridad, Cavite City, Asiong’s serves Filipino dishes that I have never seen nor tasted before.

I never claimed to be the last arbiter of Filipino food but the following notable Caviteño dishes can exclusively (I suppose) be found in Asiong’s:

  • Pancit Pusit (vermicelli noodles cooked in squid ink and squid meat topped with crunchy chopped fresh kamias fruit),
  • Asiong’s version of Kilawin (shredded fish meats with julienne cut green papaya and shredded cabbage soaked in strong vinegar sauce),
  • Asiong’s version of Inihaw na Bangus Binusog (grilled stuffed boneless milkfish whose surprising stuffing includes salted eggs, chopped tomatoes, leeks and onions)
  • Bagoong Na Itlog Ng Isda (fish roe in palm or olive oil which I suppose is Cavite’s answer to caviar cultivated in the Caspian Sea, which is best eaten when mixed into a bunch of hot cooked rice)
  • Adobong Pula (a Filipino-style pork stew in reddish brown sauce – which I failed to ask what was placed to turn the sauce reddish)
  • Tamarind Halaya (sioupy tamarind jam with milk, best eaten as a topping for vanilla ice cream),
  • Leche Flan (a rich all egg yolk crème caramel, I think with fresh pandan extracts – a tropical plant’s leaves widely used in Southeast Asia as flavoring)

All these divine dishes were washed down into my tummy by drinking a refreshing Asiong’s version of lemonade (a mixed juice containing fresh lemon and Filipino tropical fruit called kamias with organic extracts of moringa and lemon grass).

After dining and while my tastes buds were still clapping and shouting “Bravo!” I had the rare opportunity to talk to the owner Sonny Lua.  I asked him how he was able to concoct and formulate simple native ingredients into grand flavors of dishes.  He simply told me that the recipes actually came from his mom and grandmother.  He said that when he was still a child his “tambayan” (a usual place to hang and loiter around their house) was his grandmother’s kitchen.  He was never thought how to cook but by merely observing and trying to recall how he witnessed his mom and grandmother’s way of cooking he was able to reconstruct all these beautiful Filipino dishes.  He also professed that his grandmother was a great cook and frequently prepare these dishes for she was often invited to cook in various banquet functions (weddings, birthdays, fiesta celebrations, etc.) around Cavite City in the olden days.

Ang dila ko ay gustong tubuan ng kamay dahil gusto nitong pumalakpak sa sarap!