Ever since I had re-discovered the Aristocrat Restaurant earlier this year, I have been coming back to it again and again, either getting take out at their Bel-Air branch, waxing nostalgic over Pinoy merienda favorites at their Roxas Boulevard branch, or celebrating birthdays with friends at their Mall of Asia branch. I have to say, their dishes have really become a big part of my 2015, so it makes total sense to celebrate Christmas there as well!
Since I live south of Metro Manila, I took a
short road trip to SM City Dasmariñas in neighboring Cavite to check out one of their newer branches. Now, I’ve had friends who shuttled back and forth from home to La Salle Dasmariñas and being an idiot, thought it would take around 45 minutes to an hour to get there. Oh boy was I wrong. The trip there took over two hours from snaking through all that traffic!
It was just as well that I got there famished. Meeting up with a few other blogger friends, we ordered up a storm and managed to devour everything that was placed in front of us! A few highlights from the lunch-cum-dinner included:
A bowl of Hototai Soup (Php 250) is always a good idea to start with. The milky broth can be deceiving, hiding a whole lot of chopped vegetables and shrimp at the bottom – a small bowl of this is just enough to warm your cockles in the chilly(?) December mall weather.
A favorite at the table is Aristocrat’s Dinuguan (Php 150), which is made with beef instead of pork, making for a creamier and more flavorful mouthful, best paired with a Cheese Roll (Php 30) or three in lieu of the perennially accepted accoutrement of puto. I like a lot of heat in my life, so smushing the green chili into the thick soupy mess is something I like to do before taking a bite.
Now, if I were to order just one thing off their menu for the next week, it would definitely be the Aristocrat Lumpiang Shanghai (Php 250)! Ridiculously affordable, this is my usual take out dish of choice that I’d get before going into work, enjoying a three to four of the thick logs for lunch, and taking the rest home for dinner. This comes with a sweet and sour sauce, but ask for Aristocrat’s Java Sauce which lends a sweet, peanut-ty dimension to your meal. Don’t forget to ask for extra atchara, too!
Being served a plate of Laing (Php 160) always gets quizzical looks from my foreign friends. Who can blame them? It looks like green swamp mush. Looks can be deceiving, and this Bicolano dish is done right at Aristocrat, the taro leaved stewed in coconut milk until cooked a vibrant green, with hibe and just enough chili to warm that cold, cold heart.
An always present staple at most Filipino gatherings is the plate of Lechon Kawali (Php 260). Sure, everyone bemoans their cholesterol levels and share their sad stories of having to go to the hospital from high blood pressure after eating the stuff, but we all can’t resist but take a piece anyway, the crackling skin, melt-in-your-mouth fat and bits of tender and crisped meat all devoured in a few bites.
The battle of the best roast chicken in Metro Manila ends here, with Aristocrat’s Chicken Honey (Php 440). Brined in a mix of spices before being fried to crispy, crispy perfection on the outside while remaining soft and tender on the inside. This is best enjoyed smothered with Java Sauce, possibly with a side order of French Fries (Php 45). Skip the ketchup – just ask for more Java Sauce!
Opting for a “healthier” version, their Seafood Kare-Kare (Php 465) still delivers big flavors without the extra pounds. You’d never really think that prawns, squid, clams, and white fish would go well with vegetables in a thick, creamy satay-like soup, but everything comes together beautifully with a magical ingredient – bagoong! Shrimp paste with peanut butter – who would’ve known?
No decent Filipino gathering would be complete without Crispy Pata (Php 725), which is probably how this ended up on our table. A whole pig’s leg is seasoned, deep-fried and served with a sauce may with a base of soy sauce, onions, and a splash of vinegar. This is best paired with a cold brewskie and some good company.
We decided to skip our usual dessert of Torta delos Reyes and decided to try the Black Forest (4R – Php 195; 9R – Php 700) for a change. Not too sweet, layeres of chocolate sponge are layered with Maraschino cherries and cream, iced all the way round and finished with milk chocolate shavings. The small size also makes for a sweet Christmas gift!
If caramel is more to your liking, the Aristocrat’s Cream Puffs (Php 37/ piece) is covered in the almost toffee-like substance. Biting into the hard exterior, one discovers the delicate puff pastry’s cream center – I could probably go through three of these if left to my own devices.
As if all the food we had that evening wasn’t enough, I couldn’t resist but take home a bowl of oh-so-buttery Lengua de Gato (Php 240). #NoShame
I can understand how Aristocrat has embedded itself into the Pinoy psyche that is synonymous with good food and fun, family memories. For delicious, affordable family meals, look to Aristocrat to provide just that this Christmas!
Aristocrat Restaurant is located at the Upper Ground Floor, New Annex Wing, SM City Dasmariñas, Cavite. For inquiries and table reservations, please call +63 46 424 000.