I first heard of the delicious tapas and paella at La Picara in BGC from some discerning ladies who lunch. They whispered it around like a delicious stock market tip, moaning about how addicting the bone marrow risotto and the cochinillo were. And how advance reservations were absolutely necessary.
TAPAS ON A FRIDAY IN BGC
Finally yesterday, I decided to do a proper three-hour lunch at La Picara. It was a rainy Friday, so alcohol and good food were definitely needed to perk up the day.
In addition, we had something really nice to celebrate, so I said: “Let’s go to La Picara and get drunk. And let’s order everything on the menu.”
EATING FOR SEVEN PERSONS
We were only two. However, we ordered practically everything on the menu of La Picara. The waiters were probably wondering where all the food was going, too, as it was obvious that my companion was eating normally but there was food to feed eight people on the table. So one of us was eating for seven people, and that was me.
GOOD SPANISH COMFORT FOOD
Yes, I was hungry and happy. And the food at La Picara is Spanish comfort food with a touch of Mexican and also a hint of Filipino. They have tacos and sisig incorporated in their dishes, after all.
Moreover, most of the food so well-priced considering how nicely done everything truly is, makes eating here a double joy. It’s such a great feeling to enjoy one’s food. And, of course, it’s important to also know you are not paying a ransom for it at the same time.
MODEST BEGINNINGS AT LA PICARA
La Picara is a small and casual restaurant just off 5th Avenue in BGC. I’m guessing the owners did not imagine it would be such a big success so quickly, so they chose a modest space to start. But now, on most days, there are so many people for lunch and dinner that the outdoor covered terrace comes in handy.
ABOUT ISABEL CALVO
La Picara in BGC is run by a feisty but charming lady named Isabel Calvo. She is not at all shy about her food, her business or the fact that she is La Picara personified. La Picara roughly translates from Spanish to “sassy girl,” by the way.
“I started by selling food in the weekend markets,” she said, ” and then someone suggested: ‘Why not a restaurant?’ So here I am.” And, to add to this, her business card actually says “The Boss” on it.
“What are your favourite dishes?” I asked her. I already knew what I wanted but I was certainly willing to try a couple of really good other dishes. Isabel replied: “We’re known for our paellas. But to tell you the truth, everything is good.”
A DELICIOUS BONE MARROW RISOTTO
So I ordered the bone marrow risotto, which really is a dish worth coming over to La Picara for. The risotto itself has got a strong taste, but it balances out so nicely the smoothness of the bone marrow.
I would eat this everyday if I could — and maybe I will, as Travelife Magazine is officially moving its offices in a few months to this same BGC area.
CHOPITOS SERVED IN A DIFFERENT WAY
Chopitos is another dish I am quite finicky about. I love the chopitos in Spain. However I almost never get a really good version outside of Spain. So this time, with this confident Spanish lady in front of me holding the menus, I decided to order the chopitos.
The chopitos came out very tasty, full of additional crunch and layered with a spicy oil-and-egg based sauce. The serving was quite big but I ate everything.
WHERE TO ORDER FIDEUA IN MANILA
Then I saw fideua on the menu. Again, the mere mention of fideua always makes my heart beat faster as it is so hard to find a very good one. Of course I had to try the fideua of La Picara in BGC.
The dish, which was served as one of our four main courses, was excellent. The noodles were not too soft and the sauce complemented the noodles rather than overpowered it.
PAELLA WITH SOFT-SHELLED CRAB
Isabel Calvo sent out the dish she had recommended, which was the paella with soft shell crab. Immediately it got an A from me for the presentation, as it arrived topped with bright orange raw crab roe.
Then, this paella was mixed in front of us and the raw crab roe quickly cooked as it merged with the hot rice. The result was a very tasty paella with pieces of soft shell crab. Furthermore, the tiny crab eggs that were mixed into it hardened enough to pop. Delicious.
CREATIVE SPANISH DESSERTS AT LA PICARA IN BGC
My companion could not even look at the dessert menu anymore. But, as my friends know, I am never one to turn down anything sweet in life — so now you know the secret to my stomach, as well as to my heart.
I ordered a combination dessert called Puto Flan, which is reportedly their best seller. It arrived in a simple bowl, with pieces all cut up and drizzled with a fruit sauce. I am not a flan person at all. But again, I ate everything in the bowl.
WHERE IS ALL THE FOOD GOING?
“Are we feeding another town?” My companion asked, amused by my appetite. “Are you passing food to the next table? Where is all this food we are ordering going?”
The dishes were arriving on the table and the plates were leaving clean, you see. And we must have ordered a dozen dishes for two of us.
THE JOYS OF YOGHURT DESSERT
And I was curious enough about the desserts of La Picara to order the yoghurt ice cream as well. The concept of yoghurt in ice cream always intrigues me and usually I end up with a bowl of rather sour ice cream. So I was interested in La Picara’s take on this idea.
Well, this must be the best yoghurt ice cream in Manila. It was strong and confident like the restaurant boss, but also mildly sweet and soft as ice cream should be. I loved the drop of fruit compote they placed in the middle to spice up the taste.
THE BEST SANGRIA IN MANILA
Before ending this, I must mention the sangria of La Picara in BGC. Someone told me it’s the best in town so I already had a slight bias in favour of it, when I ordered it. Now I must add my own description.
This sangria is really the best in Manila, and it’s also the most enjoyable as well. After a glass or two of this, nothing will ever seem wrong with your world — at least for a few hours.
Read more about the best restaurants in Manila in Travelife Magazine