Filipinos love to eat, well I know we do. That’s why it’s no surprise that we are home to a lot of good restaurants especially here in Metro Manila. Despite being a country of 7107+ islands each with their own specialty, most of the Filipino cuisine restaurants we’ve tried here are usually familiar Filipino food. That is until we were invited by our good friends at Megaworld Lifestyle Malls to try out Alab restaurant.
Alab which stands for “burning with passion” is known for being a melting pot of best dishes from across Philippine regions. Currently, the restaurant is under the umbrella of Moderne Group of Restos, Inc. which is owned by Cherry Pie Picache, a well-known Filipina actress, Joel Fernando, owner of JB Music and JB Sports, and Miss Christine del Castillo of Moderne Culinaire Academy.
We got really excited to try it out especially after learning that it is not just a typical Filipino restaurant and we get to explore unfamiliar Filipino food.
Alab restaurant currently has three branches and the one we visited was the Venice Grand Canal Mall branch. Although the place is modern looking, it still felt inviting because of the usage of wooden furniture and wooden structures. It feels like dining in one’s home.
What we love in one area of their restaurant is their usage of Rubik’s cubes as lighting fixtures and the star-shaped pieces in jackstone as wall decor. It made the restaurant more inviting because of its spots of playfulness.
We can’t help but notice also the witty statements posted on the wall. The first one says, “Why-Fi? Try doing talkify.” This is to encourage people to talk with each other.
The second statement states that, “Just like in a television show, keep watching your things.” We know you already know that their purpose is for customers to watch their things since the management has no liability for stolen ones.
During our visit, we had an honor of meeting Chef Rene V. Acol, who is now the executive chef of Alab. He was the one who told us the stories about the dishes and decided which dishes we should try.
For starters, they gave us OKOY, PhP 120 (or 2.58 USD). Also known as vegetable fritters, most of the okoys we had tried in the past were whole small shrimps mixed in flour, cornstarch, and egg batter. Alab’s variation on okoy was to use sweet potato as the main ingredient added with shrimps. Eating it with their sugarcane vinegar dip gave a sweet and sour taste that was really appetizing.
Their ALAB’S FRIED RICE, PhP 195 (or 4.19 USD) is good for two. Although not apparent, it was made of turmeric. It also consists of shrimp, scrambled eggs, and spring onions. I liked their use of turmeric since not only was it healthy, but it also gave that fragrant scent which certainly added to our good food experience.
For our main course, we got to try out their TINUMOK, PhP 195 (or 4.19 USD). It consisted of coconut noodles, wrapped in Laing, another Filipino dish which consists of dried taro leaves mixed with coconut milk and red chili pepper. To finish it off, it was toppped with coconut cream and shrimp anchovies also known as “Bagoong Alamang” and garnished with a shrimp and chilis.
This was easily my most favorite dish out of all that was served to us. First of all, I love anything coconut, and this dish is a love letter to people like me. Second, it is a really unique dish that I’m sure people will love.
The other main dish that we got to try was their PIANGGANG, PhP 290 (or 6.23 USD). It is grilled chicken slices cooked in coconut milk topped with a special Tausug paste, and served with Filipino vegetables on the side. It was our first time eating a Tausug dish. For those who don’t know what Tausug is, they are actually an ethnic group in the Philippines who live in Mindanao.
The Tausug’s style for their paste was similar to the Visayans with the use of coconut as their main ingredient. However, theirs is a distinct syle since they use burnt coconut mixed with their aromatic spices. Some of the vegetables on the side were steamed and some were just plain fresh. Me-An loved combining the vegetables with the burnt coconut infused grilled chicken as it gave a stimulating taste.
Their sweet endings are just as creative as their main courses. Alab restaurant offers fusion of two creations that you might not expect will taste really good when mixed together.
First on our sweet list was their NEW YORK, CUBAO BIBINGKA CHEESECAKE PhP 140 (or 3.01 USD). For those unfamiliar with bibingka, it’s a traditional Filipino rice cake cooked with salted egg in a banana leaf. What they did with the bibingka was to combine it with the tart base and soft body of New-York style cheesecake. It resulted to a sweet and salty treat made sweeter with a cherry on top, and coconut and muscovado syrup on the side.
Next up is their ice creams. When we first saw their list of flavors, we were quite surprised because there are no ordinary flavors at Alab Restaurant like Chocolate or Vanilla. Instead, what they offer are existing Filipino dishes turned into Ice Creams.
I ordered the LAING ICE CREAM while Me-An chose KAMOTE Q ICE CREAM, both costs PhP 100 (or 2.15 USD) each. Yes, you read the flavors right. The Laing ice cream tasted strange at first spoonful of it for me, but the coconut milk, taro leaves and kick of spice grew on me. I loved it. Meanwhile, Me-An enjoyed the Kamote Q as she felt the texture of the sweet potato sweetened by caramelized brown sugar as she downed on it. With each ice cream cup, Alab restaurant did an excellent job of showcasing Filipino flavors in a classic dessert.
We, indeed, drink the staple Filipino drink, SAGO’T GULAMAN, PhP 70 (or 1.51 USD) while eating Alab restaurant’s amazing dishes.
Alab Restaurant is Reasonable
For us, Alab restaurant is reasonable. They have a lot to offer when it comes to variety so we no longer need to hop on a plane just to taste another region’s unfamiliar cuisine. Add to it Alab restaurant’s passion for food that is heart-warming, the great ambiance they offer and well-priced food that are good for sharing, it becomes very reasonable. You’ll also be happy to know that they offer #AlabIt meals for those who would like their own meal.
Thank you again to Alab restaurant for having us. The food experience we had… Alab it!
Ground Floor, Venice Grand Canal Mall, McKinley Hill, Taguig City.
Operating Hours: 11AM to 10PM.