For first time travelers to the Philippines, the cuisine can come off as a bit daunting, being an eclectic mix of Malay, Chinese, Spanish, and even Indian cuisine. Also, unlike our other Southeastern neighbors, making a beeline for the hawker stands or carinderias to try the local fare isn’t recommended, unless it’s the barbecued intestines (isaw), pig’s blood (betamax), and chicken feet (adidas) that you’re into – then by all means, please do.
For an introduction to Filipino food that’s easy on the eyes with clean flavors by using only the freshest ingredients, I recommend that one seek out Olic Restaurant in the Alphaland building in Makati. Named after the restaurant owner’s mother, Olic believes in a farm-to-table philosophy, sourcing most of its ingredients from their family farm up in Mount Arayat in Pampanga. Even the furniture of the restaurant, like the broad wooden table and stools that can seat 14 people, is made with refurbished wood from the mountain.
When dining at Olic, the Garlic Longganisa and Mushrooms (Php 285) appetizer shouldn’t be missed. Scoop out chunks of spicy homemade native pork garlic sausage and heap on bits of sautéed forest mushrooms, small globes of sweet shallots, cherry tomatoes, and strips of bell pepper onto a piece of freshly baked pandesal. Remember to drizzle everything with the garlic sausage-infused olive oil before taking a bite. Repeat until bowl is wiped clean.
The Kesong Puti Salad (Php 225) makes for a very pretty plate with a bed of fresh greens strewn with cherry tomatoes, fresh carabao cheese, forest mushrooms, chopped shallots, sprouts, and edible flower petals, drizzled with a refreshing citrus vinaigrette.
Everyone has their own version of fried chicken, and while others may enjoy theirs with buttermilk or Southern fried, Mommy’s Pritong Manok (Php 305) fries up chicken that’s been marinated in fish sauce and calamansi (Philippine lime) and served with a pickled slaw of cabbage, onions, and carrots, atchara (grated unripe papaya pickle), and Olic’s homemade gravy.
For travelers who want to experience eating fish done Asian style (i.e. cooked with the head still on) with condiments that smell funny but taste alright, the Crispy Tilapia with Buro and Bagoong (Php 295) should be on the list. The tilapia is gutted and cleaned before being deep-fried whole, making the outside nice and crispy while the meat remains moist and tender. Enjoy this with a side of buro (fermented rice paste popular in Pampanga) and bagoong (fermented shrimp paste popular everywhere), served with a side of and blanched bitter gourd and fried eggplant.
Seafood Sinigang (Php 395) is a staple in every Filipino household, no matter where they are in the world, and is definitely up there as far as Pinoy comfort food is concerned. The tamarind-based soup gives the broth its sour taste (think Tom Yum), and aside from the generous helpings of prawns, mussels, and clams, one can also fish out tomatoes, string beans, taro root, Japanese daikon and water spinach.
Olic upgrades the humble Bistek Tagalog (Php 1,250) with an East-meets-West versions, using grilled US rib-eye steak covered with a citrus-soy glaze served with baby potatoes, haricots verts, sliced shallots, and tourned carrots.
The Lamb Kaldereta (Php 530) tastes more Spanish than Filipino, but given that the Capampangan have a rich Spanish background, that isn’t surprising. The braised lamb shank is covered in a rich tomato sauce – not as sweet as the Tagalog counterparts – and served with baby potatoes, olives, carrots, bell pepper, and sausage slivers.
For a very Filipino dessert, the Maja Blanca (Php 110) is a must-try. A coconut pudding with bits of sweet corn makes for a creamy but not too sweet dessert and a sprinkling of roasted coconut pulp adds a layer of texture and flavor to the simple pud.
When one wants to cool off from the warm, humid weather, the Halo-Halo (P130) is sure to impress. Made the traditional way, using ingredients such as young coconut meat, tapioca, sweetened garbanzo beans, nata de coco, agar-agar gelatin, corn kernels, sweetened jackfruit, milk flan, and ube halaya (purple yam) served in a tall glass with shaved ice and evaporated milk on the side. Halo-halo literally translates to mix-mix, and the idea is to mix everything together and adding a splash of milk before tucking into the col
If it’s cake that tickles your fancy, the Sansrival (Php 120) is made of layers of buttercream, meringue and chopped cashews. Its name comes from the French phrase with the literal meaning “without rival.” Creamy, nutty, and decadent, this is best paired with a Cappuccino (Php 130), which Olic also sources from Mount Arayat.
Olic Restaurant is located on the 2nd floor of Alphaland Makati Place, Ayala Avenue corner Malugay St., Makati, and is open daily between the hours of 10am to 10pm. For inquiries and reservations, please call +63 2 808 7988.