Thursday, May 17, 2012

The best lechon kawali in Manila

Yesterday for lunch I drove across town to eat at the Oakroom restaurant of Oakwood Premier at the Joy Nostalg Center in Ortigas. I hadn't been here in a long while, so when someone kindly invited to lunch, I was very happy to traipse down EDSA for a mini-break.

What a pretty restaurant it was, especially if you like understated masculine interiors. The restaurant is all done up in calm neutral colors and with no-fuss furniture. It also has lots of space compared to most other places, so you can talk about things without having to worry about being overheard.


Finally -- and this is probably what I like best about it -- it has a great seating layout. There are proper round and square dining tables, but also a couple of very comfortable sofas so that you can have lunch with a living room-type feeling if you wish. I found this eclectic mix of tables, chairs and sofas very refreshing and nice.


Then, of course, there's the food, which is made by a French chef named Jerome (why are all the Jeromes I know connected with food and wine? The last count was six people...) who is a long-time resident of the Philippines so he speaks Tagalog and takes public transportation to work. He's talented but very low-key, preferring to stay in the kitchen instead of talking to customers and receiving their praises.

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I'd had the pleasure of having a degustation lunch here a few years ago when he'd first arrived, and the meal had been very good. Of course we were all eager to say hello to the chef after lunch -- but when the GM went into the kitchen to escort him out, it turned out that he'd already made a quick getaway to escape the praises.


This time, I wasn't as lucky either as I neither saw nor heard him, although I did taste his great food. For lunch the Oakroom has an a la carte menu of Western and Asian specialties, and the menu is lasered onto two laminated pieces of wood for an impressive start. It really makes you feel like ordering.

I was told that the sea bass is one of their best sellers here, so of course I just had to have that. It was nicely seasoned and the flesh was firm but not tough. Delicious, but my mind was already focused on other things...


The buffet looked very appetizing so we decided to take a bit of that as well. It's not too extensive, but I especially liked the salad bar which had a seafood salad, a pear and leafy green salad and a Mexican taco salad spread, among many other things. Usually, salads are the last things I'll get in a buffet, but yesterday, there I was starting my meal the healthy way and liking it.


It was also my lucky day, perhaps, as the carving of the day at Oakwood's buffet yesterday was a lechon kawali that was incredibly, incredibly tender on the inside (no exaggeration!) and so crispy on the outside that I could hear the skin crackle ever so dangerously.

Again, I'm so not a lechon kawali person, and I'm unlikely to say yes to offers for it at a dining table spread; but I took one bite from this one yesterday and I never looked back. What a delicious piece of pork that was, is all I can say. I think I had three servings and I probably would have had more, if I was not thinking of my cholesterol and of another big meal in a couple of hours, and a big trip full of good food in a day or two.

We've all had the regular kind of lechon kawali, of course -- the one with the stringy and tough meat and the skin that looks crispy but isn't really. Well, Oakwood's lechon kawali was not at all like that. It was absolutely heavenly, especially when eaten with their tangy sauce of soy sauce and chopped onions. Perfect. I almost wanted to stop talking for a couple of minutes just to savor this incredible combination of juicy tenderness and brittle crackling.

That's the lechon kawali, folks...


"Is this always on the buffet?" I managed to ask, as I was in seventh heaven. I was told that it's usually on the Wednesday lunch buffet. But if you want to sample it for sure, I suggest you ring up Oakwood to check about their menu before you plan to go to ensure that the Manila's best lechon kawali is on the menu.

If they were serving it tonight, I would probably be there kidding. Fortunately, I don't think Oakwood is serving their lechon kawali tonight and I have a degustation dinner with a Spanish wine pairing to attend tonight, so I'm so glad I don't have to make any hard decisions about where to eat tonight!



  1. Can I live your life for one day? I'm just concerned about your health, you know. :)

  2. Thank you for making us smile today! Best wishes from all of us at Travelife Magazine.