Sunday, August 5, 2012

Lunch at Romulo Cafe

There are few better ways to spend a very rainy Saturday than to have a series of very long lunches and then, in the evening, to hang out with good friends at their home. Yes, I had several lunches yesterday. I began the first lunch at 11 AM and I was still eating the last lunch at 6 PM.

I skipped dinner, in case you were wondering, and then I just went over to someone’s house to catch up with them at about 8 PM. We were a party of four, and our very interesting discussions last night -- which included a very good reason to never postpone a Travelife, even for a day -- have been posted in my previous blog entry.


The first lunch was with Lianna Romulo and Sandie Romulo-Squillantini, the two ladies behind Romulo Café along Jupiter Street in Makati. It’s a very nice restaurant and so many of my friends like it and have been talking about it, so I was almost embarrassed to tell Liana that I’d never been since it opened last November.

But if you read this blog, you’ll probably understand. I’m hardly ever in Manila; and if I am here, I’m stuck going to someone’s event or home, or having people over in my own home. It’s a pretty nice life, actually, so I’m not complaining; but it just doesn’t leave any time at all for trying out new restaurants unless someone takes me there. I don't have much initiative in this aspect.

But today I finally made it to Romulo Café, and I had a really enjoyable time talking to these two ladies about their restaurant. Sandie and her husband Enzo, -- who looks and sounds like he's 100% Italian but he's actually from Bacolod --  run the restaurant, and Enzo is actually the one who translates the ideas and inspirations for food and recipes into actual dishes. Sandie says she doesn’t cook.


Meanwhile, Liana is the family historian. She put together the beautiful photos of the life of her grandfather Carlos P. Romulo (CPR), the Philippine statesman himself, that decorate the restaurant -- going as far as the archives of the United Nations to collect her photographs.

I said: "There must be a million photographs in the UN archives. How on earth did you find your grandfather's photo among all those photos?"

Liana smiled and said: "Many of the staff were Filipino, so they were interested in this as well, and they helped me a lot."

At Romulo Cafe, there are paintings, photographs and memorabilia of CPR all over, and it’s really fascinating to see if you’re into history like I am.

The most impressive photographs are in the main restaurant area on the ground floor. Liana grouped photos of CPR with practically every US President from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to George Bush, and she also had a group of photos of CPR with practically every Philippine president.

There were also other terribly interesting photographs such as CPR with Jackie Kennedy at the UN, and a nice photo of CPR having a steak lunch with Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru, while Indira Gandhi, the future prime minister, was standing in between them serving something.


Then it was time for lunch and we three went up to the second floor for more privacy, and where Sandie and Enzo prepared a feast of all of Romulo Cafe's specialties.

We began with a dish of sweet-and-crispy squid, sisig shaped like thick hamburger patties and a tokwa't baboy served very nicely with the meat and vegetables served inside.

The main courses came afterwards. This included a really handsome-looking crispy fried tilapia and a sweet-ish kare-kare that's officially called Tito Greg's Kare-Kare on the menu, because it's a special recipe of one of their uncles.

We also had a great relleno chicken that's based on their grandmother's recipe. Apparently their grandmother Virginia used to serve this for Sunday lunch.

I was pretty stuffed by then but I just had to keep some space for dessert. The waiter came along with three tiny glasses with a bite-sized piece of suman with latik at the bottom in each.

After eating the suman in one go, Liana and I had the same idea to pour the remaining latik onto some mantecado ice cream, and we had this with little versions of langka turon.

A truly enjoyable and delicious lunch and just another day in a never-ending Travelife.


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