If I were to choose just one restaurant in Manila, for whatever and any reason, it would be Lolo Dad's. It's just that kind of place, and well worth hitting the road despite the color coding. It was raining that evening, as I weaved through the back streets to avoid being spotted, but this was definitely one of those days to risk the color coding ban. It was, after all, dinner at Lolo Dad's.
An ancestral home of the Ayuyao clan for generations, the property has survived some of the most violent chapters in the city's history, including the fall of Manila in the second world war, and its equally violent liberation. And if you look closely, you can still find isolated bullet holes in the old wooden walls, a reminder of turbulent times. In 2000, the property was given new life, converting the old home into one of Manila's finest restaurants. And for thirteen years, chef Ariel Manuel continues to create some of the best dishes in the metro. If you're looking for the best Rack of Lamb, Chilean Seabass and pan-fried foie gras, this is the place.
Inside Lolo Dad's kitchen, one gets a glimpse of Chef Ariel Manuel's magic and passion for each dish. The glass windows allow diners a privileged peek in the workings of a real kitchen, and at Lolo Dad's, the well orchestrated performance adds to one's overall dining experience.
Seared Jumbo Scallops, ready for the finishing touches from Chef Ariel Manuel and his team before being served. The attention to detail is impressive, as each dish is meticulously plated, from starters to mains, to desserts. Like plated art pieces, Lolo Dad's provides a visual treat, feeding both your eyes and palate.
Our dinner begins with Lolo Dad's "All of the Above" Appetizer Sampler (P 1,960+), a tasting portion of all the appetizer items, served family style on a platter. The selection includes Ahi Tuna Loin and Marinated Salmon on Grilled Watermelon with soy vinaigrette and Aioli, Seared Duck Liver and Pate de Foie Gras with pear confit, mesclun salad and cranberry compote; White Onion Soup with Gratinated Raclette Cheese crouton, and a Romaine Caesar Salad with crispy pancetta, parmesan and eight-minute boiled egg...and there's more...
...a Seafood salad with grilled shrimps, feta cheese and olives; Soft Shell Crab Fritter with Gribiche Dungeness Crab, Mango and Cucumber Salad; a sauteed jumbo scallop topped with a grilled prawn and an elegant terrine. Each individual component brings its own unique and distinct flavor, and this alone is enough reason to dine at Lolo Dad's.
Then, more surprises from Lolo Dad's kitchen were served. Lolo Dad's Cafe's indulgent Double Espresso Soup (P 350+), a delightful pair of Cream of Mushroom and Tomato with salted fleuron in cool espresso cups. One sip and you experience a burst of flavors, and no, this isn't your usual cream of mushroom or tomato soup. The flavors are bold and intense, like a sudden jolt of pure pleasure. Seriously good.
After an impressive start, we were served Lolo Dad's Calamansi Sorbet, a palate cleanser before the mains. The dramatic flair of Lolo Dad's kitchen is again evident in its sorbet, elegantly served in a pot, more like magical lamp, with a little dry ice. Very cool. The sorbet's clean flavors cuts through the richness of the starters, as we waited for the main dishes...
I go for one of Lolo Dad's signature dishes, Herb de Provence Crusted Rack of Lamb with Three Cheese Risotto (Roquefort, Gruyere and Parmesan) and forty melted garlic and tomato confit (P 1,525+ Regular Portion/P 915+ Modest Portion). Grilled to medium rare perfection with a juicy pink center, the tender lamb's flavor is rich and clean, with the herb crust adding a layer of subtle flavor without overwhelming the meat. The risotto also packs a flavorful punch, with the richness of the cheese evident in every bite. Definitely one of the best racks of lamb I've tried so far.
Other mains include the Confit of Duck Leg with Duck Breast and stir-fry foie gras rice and lavender jus (P 1,525+), rich and succulent duck with equally rich side of foie gras rice.
Then, there's dessert. Lolo Dad's Sampler of Chocolate (P 430+ Regular Portion/P 260+ Modest Portion), an assortment of Lolo Dad's delicate and indulgent desserts, including White Chocolate off-mould Brulee, Dark Chocolate Terrine, Chocolate Flan, White Chocolate and Caramel Ice Cream, artfully plated with Lolo Dad's signature touch.
The deceptively small pieces all pack a serious punch of rich flavors, as each piece seem to be better than the previous, and it just keeps getting better.
Other must-try desserts include the White Chocolate Panna Cotta with fresh berries on passionfruit chilled soup and young coconut and lychee granite (P 290+ Regular Portion/P 180+ Modest Portion), a rich, creamy dessert that simply melts in your mouth.
Dark Chocolate and Almond Layered Cake with quenelle of white chocolate mousseline and vanilla almond ice cream (P 290+ Regular Portion/P 180 Modest Portion), a delicately layered dessert with a side of homemade ice cream topped with fresh strawberries and blueberries and an elegant chocolate strip.
The subtle yet complex combination of flavors make this the perfect ending to an elegant meal at Lolo Dad's.
Vanilla Cream and Mango Beignettes with spiced mango marmalade, rose syrup and Parmesan cheese ice cream (P 290+ Reguar Portion/P 180 Modest Portion), another indulgent and rich dessert with a sweet mango and cream blend. The dish also combines different textures, with crisp beignettes stuffed with mango contrasting with the rich vanilla cream.
Chef Ariel Manuel and his young staff, at the end of another brilliant performance in Lolo Dad's kitchen. At dinner's end, I slowly sipped my cup of coffee, wondering if I just went through probably the best dinner experience ever. And as the kitchen fires up to serve the last round of dishes, I knew this was definitely worth risking the color coding ban. And I'd do it again. In a heartbeat.
Lolo Dad's Cafe is located at 899 President Quirino Avenue corner Leon Guinto Street, Malate, Manila or call 522-2941 for inquiries and reservations.
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